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Full text of "Little women, or, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy"

This is the ORCHARD HOUSE in Concord, Massachusetts, now 
i(w a museum visited every year by hundreds of people. Here lived 
the real Little Women, Louisa May Alcott and her sisters, 
whose complete story is told in the three books LITTLE 
WOMEN, LITTLE MEN, and JO'S BOYS. Five other books 
by Miss Alcott are published in this Orchard House Edition, 
AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL, EIGHT COUSINS, ROSE 




\ STUDIA IN 



THE LIBRARY 

of 

VICTORIA UNIVERSITY 
Toronto 



ilTTLE WOMEN 







Meg, Jo, Belh and Amy. FRONTISPIECE. 
See page 105. 



ORCHARD HOUSE EDITION 



LITTLE WOMEN 



or 



Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy 

By 

Louisa M. Alcott 



With Illustrations in Color by 
Jessie Willcox Smith 



3N'K"t 




LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY 



Boston 



Toronto 



PS 



0\7 
.52 
ISIS 



LS2. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the years 1868 and 1869, bjr 

LOUISA M. ALCOTT, 

IB the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts 

Copyright, 1896, 1910, 1911, 

BY J. S. P. ALCOTT. 

Copyright, 1915, 
BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY. 



All rights reserved 
Oioi 00006 



Thirty-seventh Printing 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



PREFACE 

*Go, then, my little Book, and show to all 
That entertain and bid thee welcome shall, 
What thou dost keep close shut up in thy breast; 
And wish what thou dost show them may be blest 
To them, for good, may make them choose to be 
Pilgrims better, by far, than thee or me. 
Tell them of Mercy; she is one 
Who early hath her pilgrimage begun. 
Yfa, let young damsels learn of her to prize 
Tkt world which is to come, and so be wise; 
For little tripping maids may follow God 

the ways which saintly feet have trod." 

Adapted from JOHN BUNYAN 



CONTENTS 

Jftett. 



CHAPTER 

I PLAYING PILGRIMS ........... i 

II A MERRY CHRISTMAS ........ , . 13 

III THE LAURENCE BOY ........... 24 

IV. BURDENS .............. 36 

V. BEING NEIGHBORLY ........... 48 

VL BETH FINDS THE PALACE BEAUTIFUL ...... 61 

VII AMY'S VALLEY OF HUMILIATION ....... 69 

VIIL Jo MEETS APOLLYON ........... 76 

IX, MEG GOES TO VANITY FAIR ........ 88 

X. THE P. C. AND P. O ........... 106 

XI. EXPERIMENTS ............. 114 

XII. CAMP LAURENCE ............ 126 

XIII. CASTLES IN THE AIR ........... 147 

XIV. SECRETS ............... 157 

XV. A TELEGRAM ............. 167 

XVI. LETTERS .............. 176 

XVII. LITTLE FAITHFUL ........... 185 

XVIII. DARK DAYS ............. 193 

XIX. AMY'S WILL ............. 202 

XX. CONFIDENTIAL ............. 211 

XXI. LAURIE MAKES MISCHIEF, AND Jo MAKES PEACE . . 218 

XXII. PLEASANT MEADOWS ........... 231 

XXIII. AUNT MARCH SETTLES THE QUESTION ..... 238 



XXIV. GOSSIP ............... 251 

XXV. THE FIRST WEDDING .......... 263 

XXVI. ARTISTIC ATTEMPTS ........ ... 270 

vii 



Vlll 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 

XXVII. LITERARY LESSONS 281 

XXVIII. DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES , 289 

XXIX. CALLS , . 305 

XXX. CONSEQUENCES 3*9 

XXXI. OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT , 33 1 

XXXII. TENDER TROUBLES 342 

XXXIII. Jo's JOURNAL 354 

XXXIV. A FRIEND 367 

XXXV. HEARTACHE 383 

XXXVI. BETH'S SECRET 395 

XXXVII. NEW IMPRESSIONS ... . 400 

XXXVIII. ON THE SHELF 413 

XXXIX. LAZY LAURENCE 426 

XL. THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW 441 

XLI. LEARNING TO FORGET 447 

XLII. ALL ALONE 460 

XL-Ill. SURPRISES . 468 

XLIV. MY LORD AND LADY , f . 485 

XLV. DAISY AND DEMI 491 

XLVI. UNDER THE UMBRELLA t . ,. , 497 

XLVII. HARVEST TIME - . $13 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy Frontispiece 

They all drew to the fire IG 

The great drawing-room was haunted by the tuneful spirit 

that came and went unseen 66 

Holding on to the banisters, she put him gently away . . . 198 

Jo and Beth ^44 

He put his arms about her, as she stood on the step above him 394 

In a minute a hand came down over the page, so that she 

could not draw 436 

Passers-by probably thought them a pair of harmless lunatics 506 



LITTLE WOMEN 

PART FIRST. 
CHAPTER I. 

PLAYING PILGRIMS. 

4 

" CHRISTMAS won't be Christmas without any presents," 
grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. 

"It 's so dreadful to be poor ! " sighed Meg, looking down at 
her old dress. 

" I don't think it 's fair for some girls to have plenty of 
pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, 
with an injured sniff. 

"We've got father and mother and each other," said Beth 
contentedly, from her corner. 

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened 
at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, 

" We have n't got father, and shall not have him for a long 
time." She did n't say " perhaps never," but each silently 
added it, thinking of father far away, where the fighting was. 

Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered 
tone, 

" You know the reason mother proposed not having any 
presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard 
winter for every one; and she thinks we ought not to spend 
money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the 
army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, 
and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I dont ; " and Meg 



2 LITTLE WOMEN 

shook her head, as she thought regretfully of afl the pretty 
things she wanted. 

" But I don't think the little we should spend would do any 
good. We 've each got a dollar, and the army would n't be much 
helped by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from 
mother or you, but I do want to buy Undine and Sintram for 
myself ; I Ve wanted it so long," said Jo, who was a bookworm. 

" I ' iave planned to spend mine in new music," said Beth, 
with a little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth -brush 
and kettle-holder. 

" I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing-pencils ; I really 
need them," said Amy decidedly. 

" Mother did n't say anything about our money, and she 
won't wish us to give up everything. Let 's each buy what 
we want, and have a little fun ; I 'm sure we work hard enough 
to earn it," cried Jo, examining the heels of her shoes in a 
gentlemanly manner. 

" I know / do, teaching those tiresome children nearly 
all day, when I 'm longing to enjoy myself at home," began 
Meg, in the complaining tone again. 

" You don't have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo. 
" How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, 
fussy old lady, who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied, and 
worries you till you 're ready to fly out of the window or cry ? " 

" It 's naughty to fret ; but I do think washing dishes and 
keeping things tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes 
me cross; and my hands get so stiff, I can't practise well at 
all ; " and Beth looked at her rough hands with a sigh that 
any one could hear that time. 

" I don't believe any of you suffer as I do," cried Amy ; 
" for you don't have to go to school with impertinent girls, 
who plague you if you don't know your lessons, and laugh at 
your dressef . and label your father if he is n't rich, and insult 
you when your nose is n't nice." 

"If you mean libel, I J d say so, and not talk about labels, 
as if papa was a pickle-bottle," advised Jo, laughing. 



LITTLE WOMEN 3 

" I know what I mean, and you need n't be statiricat about 
it. It 's proper to use good words, and improve your vocabi* 
lary" returned Amy, with dignity. 

" Don't peck at one another, children. Don't you wish we 
had the money papa lost when we were little, Jo? Dear me! 
how happy and good we 'd be, if we had no worries ! " said 
Meg, who could remember better times. 

" You said, the other day, you thought we were a deal 
happier than the King children, for they were fighting and 
fretting all the time, in spite of their money." 

" So I did, Beth. Well, I think we are ; for, though we do 
have to work, we make fun for ourselves, and are a pretty 
jolly set, as Jo would say." 

" Jo does use such slang words ! " observed Amy, with a 
reproving look at the long figure stretched on the rug. Jo 
immediately sat up, put her hands in her pockets, and began 
to whistle. 

" Don't, Jo ; it 's so boyish ! " 

"That's why I do it." 

" I detest rude, unlady-like girls ! " 

" I hate affected, niminy-piminy chits ! " 

" ' Birds in their little nests agree, ' " sang Beth, the peace- 
maker, with such a funny face that both sharp voices softened 
to a laugh, and the "pecking" ended for that time. 

" Really, girls you are both to be blamed," said Meg, begin- 
ning to lecture in her elder-sisterly fashion. " You are old 
enough to leave off boyish tricks, and to behave better, 
Josephine. It did n't matter so much when you were a little 
girl ; but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should 
remember that you are a young lady." 

" I 'm not ! and if turning up my hair makes me one, I '11 
wear it in two tails till I 'm twenty," cried Jo, pulling off her 
net, and shaking down a chestnut mane. " I hate to think 
I 've got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long gowns, 
and look as prim as a China-aster ! It 's bad enough to be a girl, 
anyway, when I like boys' games and work and manners! 



4 LITTLE WOMEN 

I can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy; and 
it 's worse than ever now, for I 'm dying to go and fight with 
papa, and I can only stay at home and knit, like a poky old 
woman ! " And Jo shook the blue army-sock till the needles 
rattled like castanets, and her ball bounded across the room. 

"Poor Jo! It's too bad, but it can't be helped; so you 
must try to be contented with making your name boyish, and 
playing brother to us girls," said Beth, stroking the rough head 
at her knee with a hand that all the dish-washing and dusting 
in the world could not make ungentle in its touch. 

" As for you, Amy," continued Meg, " you are altogether 
too particular and prim. Your airs are funny now ; but you '11 
grow up an affected little goose, if you don't take care. I 
like your nice manners and refined ways of speaking, when 
you don't try to be elegant; but your absurd words are as 
bad as Jo's slang." 

" If Jo is a torn-boy and Amy a goose, what am I, please? " 
asked Beth, ready to share the lecture. 

" You 're a dear, and nothing else," answered Meg warmly ; 
and no one contradicted her, for the " Mouse " was the pet 
of the family. 

As young readers like to know " how people look," we will 
take this moment to give them a little sketch of the four sisters, 
who sat knitting away in the twilight, while the December 
snow fell quietly without, and the fire crackled cheerfully 
within. It was a comfortable old room, though the carpet was 
faded and the furniture very plain ; for a good picture or two 
hung on the walls, books filled the recesses, chrysanthemums 
and Christmas roses bloomed in the windows, and a pleasant 
atmosphere of home-peace pervaded it. 

Margaret, the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and very pretty, 
being plump and fair, with large eyes, plenty of soft, brown 
hair, a sweet mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather 
vain. Fifteen-year-old Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and 
reminded one of a colt; for she never seemed to know what to 
do with her long limbs, which were very much in her way. 



LITTLE WOMEN 5 

She had a decided mouth, a comical nose, and sharp, gray eyes, 
which"appeared to see everything, and were by turns fierce, 
funny, or thoughtful. Her long, thick hair was her one beauty ; 
but it was usually bundled into a net, to be out of her way. 
Round shoulders had Jo, big hands and feet, a fly-away look 
to her clothes, and the uncomfortable appearance of a girl 
who was rapidly shooting up into a woman, and did n't like 
it. Elizabeth or Beth, as every one called her was a 
rosy, smooth-haired, bright-eyed girl of thirteen, with a shy 
manner, a timid voice, and a peaceful expression, which was 
seldom disturbed. Her father called her " Little Tranquillity," 
and the name suited her excellently; for she seemed to live in 
a happy world of her own, only venturing out to meet the few 
whom she trusted and loved. Amy, though the youngest, was a 
most important person, in her own opinion at least. A regu- 
lar snow-maiden, with blue eyes, and yellow hair, curling on 
her shoulders, pale and slender, and always carrying herself 
like a young lady mindful of her manners. What the char- 
acters of the four sisters were we will leave to be found out. 

The clock struck six ; and, having swept up the hearth, Beth 
put a pair of slippers down to warm. Somehow the sight 
of the old shoes had a good effect upon the girls ; for mother 
was coming, and every one brightened to welcome her. Meg 
stopped lecturing, and lighted the lamp, Amy got out of the 
easy-chair without being asked, and Jo forgot how tired she 
was as she sat up to hold the slippers nearer to the blaze. 

" They are quite worn out ; Marmee must have a new pair." 

" I thought I 'd get her some with my dollar," said Beth. 

" No, I shall ! " cried Amy. 

" I 'm the oldest," began Meg, but Jo cut in with a decided 

41 1 'm the man of the family now papa is away, and / 
shall provide the slippers, for he told me to take special care 
of mother while he was gone." 

" I '11 tell you what we '11 do," said Beth ; " let 's each get her 
something for Christmas, and not get anything for ourselves." 

" That 's like you, dear ! What will we get ? " exclaimed Jo. 



6 LITTLE WOMEN 

Every one thought soberly for a minute; then Meg an- 
nounced, as if the idea was suggested by the sight of her own 
pretty hands, " I shall give her a nice pair of gloves." 

" Army shoes, best to be had," cried Jo. 

" Some handkerchiefs, all hemmed," said Beth. 

" I '11 get a little bottle of cologne; she likes it, and it won't 
cost much, so I '11 have some left to buy my pencils," added 
Amy. 

" How will we give the things ? " asked Meg. 

" Put them on the table, and bring her in and see her open 
the bundles. Don't you remember how we used to do on our 
birthdays ? " answered Jo. 

" I used to be so frightened when it was my turn to sit 
in the big chair with the crown on, and see you all come march- 
ing round to give the presents, with a kiss. I liked the things 
and the kisses, but it was dreadful to have you sit looking at 
me while I opened the bundles," said Beth, who was toasting 
her face and the bread for tea, at the same time. 

" Let Marmee think we are getting things for ourselves, and 
then surprise her. We must go shopping to-morrow after- 
noon, Meg ; there is so much to do about the play for Christmas 
night," said Jo, marching up and down, with her hands behind 
her back and her nose in the air. 

" I don't mean to act any more after this time ; I 'm getting 
too old for such things," observed Meg, who was as much a 
child as ever about " dressing-up " frolics. 

" You won't stop, I know, as long as you can trail round in 
a white gown with your hair down, and wear gold-paper 
jewelry. You are the best actress we 've got, and there '11 be 
an end of everything if you quit the boards," said Jo. " We 
ought to rehearse to-night. Come here, Amy, and do the faint- 
ing scene, for you are as stiff as a poker in that." 

" I can't help it ; I never saw any one faint, and I don't choose 
to make myself all black and blue, tumbling flat as you do. 
If I can go down easily, I '11 drop ; if I can't I shall fall into 
a chair and be graceful; I don't care if Hugo does come at 



LITTLE WOMEN 7 

me with a pistol," returned Amy, who was not gifted with 
dramatic power, but was chosen because she was small enough 
to be borne out. shrieking by the villain of the piece. 

"Do it this way ; clasp your hands so, and stagger across 
the room, crying frantically, ' Roderigo ! save me ! save me ! '" 
and away went Jo with a melodramatic scream which was truly 
thrilling. 

Amy followed, but she poked her hands out stiffly before 
her, and jerked herself along as if she went by machinery; 
and her " Ow ! " was more suggestive of pins being run into 
her than of fear and anguish. Jo gave a despairing groan, and 
Meg laughed outright, while Beth let her bread burn as she 
watched the fun, with interest. 

" It 's no use ! Do the best you can when the time comes, 
and if the audience laugh, don't blame me. Come on, Meg." 

Then things went smoothly, for Don Pedro defied the world 
in a speech of two pages without a single break; Hagar, the 
witch, chanted an awful incantation over her kettleful of sim- 
mering toads, with weird effect; Roderigo rent his chains 
asunder manfully, and Hugo died in agonies of remorse and 
arsenic, with a wild " Ha ! ha ! " 

" It 's the best we Ve had yet," said Meg, as the dead villain 
sat up and rubbed his elbows. 

" I don't see how you can write and act such splendid things, 
Jo. You 're a regular Shakespeare ! " exclaimed Beth, who 
firmly believed that her sisters were gifted with wonderful 
genius in all things. 

" Not quite," replied Jo modestly. " I do think, ' The Witch's 
Curse, an Operatic Tragedy,' is rather a nice thing; but I'd 
like to try Macbeth, if we only had a trap-door for Banquo. 
I always wanted to do the killing part. ' Is that a dagger that 
I see before me? ' " muttered Jo, rolling her eyes and clutching 
at the air, as she had seen a famous tragedian do. 

" No, it 's the toasting fork, with mother's shoe on it instead 
of the bread. Beth 's stage-struck ! " cried Meg, and the re- 
hearsal ended in a general burst of laughter. 



8 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Glad to find you so merry, my girls," said a cheery voice 
at the door, and actors and audience turned to welcome a tall, 
motherly lady, with a " can-I-help-you " look about her which 
was truly delightful. She was not elegantly dressed, but a 
noble-looking woman, and the girls thought the gray cloak and 
unfashionable bonnet covered the most splendid mother in the 
world. 

" Well, dearies, how have you got on to-day ? There was 
so much to do, getting the boxes ready to go to-morrow, that I 
did n't come home to dinner. Has any one called, Beth ? How 
is your cold, Meg? Jo, you look tired to death. Come and 
kiss me, baby." 

While making these maternal inquiries Mrs. March got her 
wet things off, her warm slippers on, and sitting down in the 
easy-chair, drew Amy to her lap, preparing to enjoy the happiest 
hour of her busy day. The girls flew about, trying to make 
things comfortable, each in her own way. Meg arranged the 
tea-table; Jo brought wood and set chairs, dropping, over- 
turning, and_clattering everything she touched ; Beth trotted to 
and fro between parlor and kitchen, quiet and busy; while 
Amy gave directions to every one, as she sat with her hands 
folded. 

As they gathered about the table, Mrs. March said, with a 
particularly happy face, " I 've got a treat for you after supper." 

A quick, bright smile went round like a streak of sunshine. 
Beth clapped her hands, regardless of the biscuit she held, 
and Jo tossed up her napkin, crying, " A letter ! a letter ! Three 
cheers for father ! " 

" Yes, a nice long letter. He is well, and thinks he shall 
get through the cold season better than we feared. He sends 
all sorts of loving wishes for Christmas, and an especial mes- 
sage to you girls," said Mrs. March, patting her pocket as if 
she had got a treasure there. 

" Hurry and get done ! Don't stop to quirk your little finger, 
and simper over your plate, Amy," cried Jo, choking in her 



LITTLE WOMEN 9 

tea, and dropping her bread, butter side down, on the carpet, 

in her haste to get atjthe treat. 

Beth ate no more, but crept away, to sit in her shadowy 
corner and brood over the delight to come, till the others were 
ready. 

" I think it was so splendid in father to go as a chaplain 
when he was too old to be drafted, and not strong enough for 
a soldier," said Meg warmly. 

" Don't I wish I could go as a drummer, a vivan what 's 
its name? or a nurse, so I could be near him and help him," 
exclaimed Jo, with a groan. 

" It must be very disagreeable to sleep in a tent, and eat all 
sorts of bad-tasting things, and drink out of a tin mug," sighed 
Amy. 

" When will he come home, Marmee ? " asked Beth, with 
a little quiver in her voice. 

" Not for many months, dear, unless he is sick. He will 
stay and do his work faithfully as long as he can, and we won't 
ask for him back a minute sooner than he can be spared. Now 
come and hear the letter." 

They all drew to the fire, mother in the big chair with Beth 
at her feet, Meg and Amy perched on either arm of the chair, 
and Jo leaning on the back, where no one would see any sign 
of emotion if the letter should happen to be touching. Very 
few letters were written in those hard times that were not 
touching, especially those which fathers sent home. In this 
one little was said of the hardships endured, the dangers faced, 
or the homesickness conquered; it was a cheerful, hopeful 
letter, full of lively descriptions of camp life, marches, and 
military news ; and only at the end did the writer's heart over- 
flow with fatherly love and longing for the little girls at home. 

" Give them all my dear love and a kiss. Tell them I think 
of them by day, pray for them by night, and find my best 
comfort in their affection at all times. A year seems very long 
to wait before I see them, but remind them that while we wait 
we may all work, so that these hard days need not be wasted. I 



io LITTLE WOMEN 

know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be 
loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their 
bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully, 
that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder 
than ever of my little women." 

Everybody sniffed when they came to that part; Jo wasn't 
ashamed of the great tear that dropped off the end of her nose, 
and Amy never minded the rumpling of her curls as she hid 
her face on her mother's shoulder and sobbed out. " I am 
a selfish girl ! but I '11 truly try to be better, so he may n't be 
disappointed in me by and by." 

" We all will ! " cried Meg. " I think too much of my looks, 
and hate to work, but won't any more, if I can help it." 

" I '11 try and be what he loves to call me, ' a little woman,' 
and not be rough and wild; but do my duty here instead of 
wanting to be somewhere else," said Jo, thinking that keeping 
her temper at home was a much harder task than facing a 
rebel or two down South. 

Beth said nothing, but wiped away her tears with the blue 
army-sock, and began to knit with all her might, losing no 
time in doing the duty that lay nearest her, while she resolved 
in her quiet little soul to be all that father hoped to find her 
when the year brought round the happy coming home. 

Mrs. March broke the silence that followed Jo's words, by 
saying in her cheery voice, " Do you remember how you used 
to play Pilgrim's Progress when you were little things ? Noth- 
ing delighted you more than to have me tie my piece-bags on 
your backs for burdens, give you hats and sticks and rolls of 
paper, and let you travel through the house from the cellar, 
which was the City of Destruction, up, up, to the house-top, 
where you had all the lovely things you could collect to make 
a Celestial City." 

" What fun it was, especially going by the lions, fighting 
Apollyon, and passing through the Valley where the hob- 
goblins were ! " said Joe. 



They all drew to the fire. Page 9. 



LITTLE WOMEN n 

"I liked the place where the bundles fell off and tumbled 
downstairs," said Meg. 

" My favorite part was when we came out on the flat roof 
where our flowers and arbors and pretty things were, and all 
stood and sung for joy up there in the sunshine," said Beth, 
smiling, as if that pleasant moment had come back to her. 

" I don't remember much about it, except that I was afraid 
of the cellar and the dark entry, and always liked the cake 
and milk we had up at the top. If I was n't too old for such 
things, I *d rather like to play it over again," said Amy, who 
began to talk of renouncing childish things at the mature age 
of twelve. 

" We never are too old for this, my dear, because it is a play 
we are playing all the time in one way or another. Our burdens 
are here, our road is before us, and the longing for goodness 
and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles 
and mistakes to the peace which is a true Celestial City. Now, 
my little pilgrims, suppose you begin again, not in play, but 
in earnest, and see how far on you can get before father comes 
home." 

" Really, mother ? Where are our bundles ? " asked Amy, 
who was a very literal young lady. 

" Each of you told what your burden was just now, except 
Beth ; I rather think she has n't got any," said her mother. 

" Yes, I have ; mine is dishes and dusters, and envying girls 
with nice pianos, and being afraid of people." 

Beth's bundle was such a funny one that everybody wanted 
to laugh; but nobody did, for it would have hurt her feelings 
very much. 

" Let us do it," said Meg thoughtfully. " It is only another 
name for trying to be good, and the story may help us; for 
though we do want to be good, it 's hard work, and we forget, 
and don't do our best." 

" We were in the Slough of Despond to-night, and mother 
came and pulled us out as Help did in the book. We ought 
to have our roll of directions, like Christian. What shall we 



12 LITTLE WOMEN 

do about that ? " asked Jo, delighted with the fancy which lent 
a little romance to the very dull task of doing her duty. 

" Look under your pillows, Christmas morning, and you will 
find your guide-book," replied Mrs. March. 

They talked over the new plan while old Hannah cleared 
the table; then out came the four little work-baskets, and the 
needles flew as the girls made sheets for Aunt March. It was 
uninteresting sewing, but to-night no one grumbled. They 
adopted Jo's plan of dividing the long seams into four parts, 
and calling the quarters Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, 
and in the way got on capitally, especially when they talked 
about the different countries as they stitched their way through 
them. 

At nine they stopped work, and sung, as usual, before they 
went to bed. No one but Beth could get much music out of 
the old piano ; but she had a way of softly touching the yellow 
keys, and making a pleasant accompaniment to the simple songs 
they sung. Meg had a voice like a flute, and she and her mother 
led the little choir. Amy chirped like a cricket, and Jo 
wandered through the airs at her own sweet will, always com- 
ing out at the wrong place with a croak or a quaver that spoilt 
the most pensive tune. They had always done this from the 
time they could lisp 

" Crinkle, crinkle, 'ittle 'tar," 

and it had become a household custom, for the mother was 
a born singer. The first sound in the morning was her voice, 
as she went about the house singing like a lark; and the last 
sound at night was the same cheery sound, for the girls never 
grew too old for that familiar lullaby. 



LITTLE WOMEN 13 



CHAPTER II. 

A MERRY CHRISTMAS. 

Jo WAS the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas 
morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a mo- 
ment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, 
when her little sock fell down because it was so crammed with 
goodies. Then she remembered her mother's promise, and slip- 
ping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson- 
covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful 
old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a 
true guide-book for any pilgrim going the long journey. She 
woke Meg with a " Merry Christmas," and bade her see what 
was under her pillow. A green-covered book appeared, with 
the same picture inside, and a few words written by their 
mother, which made their one present very precious in their 
eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke, to rummage and find 
their little books also, one dove-colored, the other blue ; and 
all sat looking at and talking about them, while the east grew 
rosy with the coming day. 

In spite of her small vanities, Margaret had a sweet and 
pious nature, which unconsciously influenced her sisters, espe- 
cially Jo, who loved her very tenderly, and obeyed her because 
her advice was so gently given. 

" Girls," said Meg seriously, looking from the tumbled head 
beside her to the two little night-capped ones in the room 
beyond, " mother wants us to read and love and mind these 
books, and we must begin at once. We used to be faithful 
about it; but since father went away, and all this war trouble 
unsettled us, we have neglected many things. You can do as 
you please; but I shall keep my book on the table here^ and 
read a little every morning as soon as I wake, for I know it 
do me good, and help me through the day." 



14 LITTLE WOMEN 

Then she opened her new book and began to read. Jo put 
her arm round her, and, leaning cheek to cheek, read also, with 
the quiet expression so seldom seen on her restless face. 

" How good Meg is ! Come, Amy, let 's do as they do. I '11 
help you with the hard words, and they '11 explain things if we 
don't understand," whispered Beth, very much impressed by 
the pretty books and her sisters' example. 

" I 'm glad mine is blue," said Amy ; and then the rooms 
were very still while the pages were softly turned, and the 
winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious 
faces with a Christmas greeting. 

" Where is mother ? " asked Meg, as she and Jo ran down to 
thank her for their gifts, half an hour later. 

" Goodness only knows. Some poor creeter come a-beggin', 
and your ma went straight off to see what was needed. There 
never was such a woman for givin' away vittles and drink, 
clothes and firm', " replied Hannah, who had lived with the 
family since Meg was born, and was considered by them all 
more as a friend than a servant. 

" She will be back soon, I think ; so fry your cakes, and have 
everything ready," said Meg, looking over the presents which 
were collected in a basket and kept under the sofa, ready to 
be produced at the proper time. " Why, where is Amy's bottle 
of cologne ? " she added, as the little flask did not appear. 

" She took it out a minute ago, and went off with it to put 
a ribbon on it, or some such notion," replied Jo, dancing about 
the room to take the first stiffness off the new army-slippers. 

" How nice my handkerchiefs look, don't they ? Hannah 
washed and ironed them for me, and I marked them all myself," 
said Beth, looking proudly at the somewhat uneven letters 
which had cost her such labor. 

" Bless the child ! she 's gone and put ' Mother ' on them 
instead of ' M. March/ How funny! " cried Jo, taking up one. 

" Is n't it right ? I thought it was better to do it so, because 
Meg's initials are ' M. M.,' and I don't want any one to use 
these but Marmee," said Beth, looking troubled. 



LITTLE WOMEN i$ 

** It 's all right, dear, and a very pretty idea, quite sensible, 
too, for no one can ever mistake now. It will please her very 
much, I know/' said Meg, with a frown for Jo and a smile for 
Beth. 

" There 's mother. Hide the basket, quick ! " cried Jo, as a 
door slammed, and steps sounded in the hall. 

Amy came in hastily, and looked rather abashed when she 
saw her sisters all waiting for her. 

" Where have you been, and what are you hiding behind 
you ? " asked Meg, surprised to see, by her hood and cloak, 
that lazy Amy had been out so early. 

" Don't laugh at me, Jo ! I did n't mean any one should 
know till the time came. I only meant to change the little 
bcttle for a big one, and I gave all my money to get it, and 
I 'm truly trying not to be selfish any more." 

As she spoke, Amy showed the handsome flask which re- 
placed the cheap one; and looked_j>o earnest ?"H fciirnhTp in 
her little effort to forget herself that Meg hugged heroiTtl 
spot, and Jo pronounced her "a trump," while Beth ran to 
the window, and picked her finest rose to ornament the stately 
bottle. 

" You see I felt ashamed of my present, after reading and 
talking about being good this morning, so I ran round the 
corner and changed it the minute I was up : and I 'm so glad, 
for mine is the handsomest now." 

Another bang of the street-door sent the basket under the 
sofa, and the girls to the table, eager for breakfast. 

" Merry Christmas, Marmee ! Many of them ! Thank you 
for our books; we read some, and mean to every day," they 
cried, in chorus. 

" Merry Christmas, little daughters ! I 'm glad you began at 
once, and hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word 
before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman 
with a little new-born baby. Six children are huddled into 
one bed! to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There 
is nothing to eat over there; and the oldest boy came to tell 



16 LITTLE WOMEN 

me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you 
give them your breakfast as a Christmas present ? " 

They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an 
hour, and for a minute no one spoke; only a minute, for Jo 
exclaimed impetuously, 

" I 'm so glad you came before we began ! " 

" May I go and help carry the things to the poor little chil- 
dren ? " asked Beth eagerly. 

" / shall take the cream and the muffins," added Amy, hero- 
ically giving up the articles she most liked. 

Meg was already covering the buckwheats, and piling the 
bread into one big plate. 

" I thought you 'd do it," said Mrs. March, smiling as if 
satisfied. " You shall all go and help me, and when we come 
back we will have bread and milk for breakfast, and make it 
up at dinner-time." 

They were soon ready, and the procession set out. For- 
tunately it was early, and they went through back streets, so 
few people saw them, and no one laughed at the queer party. 

A poor, bare, miserable room it was, with broken windows, 
no fire, ragged bed-clothes, a sick mother, wailing baby, and a 
group of pale, hungry children cuddled under one old quilt, 
trying to keep warm. 

How the big eyes stared and the blue lips smiled as the girls 
went in! 

" Ach, mein Gott! it is good angels come to us!" said the 
poor woman, crying for joy. 

" Funny angels in hoods and mittens," said Jo, and set them 
laughing. 

In a few minutes it really did seem as if kind spirits had been 
at work there. Hannah, who had carried wood, made a fire, 
and stopped up the broken panes with old hats and her own 
cloak. Mrs. March gave the mother tea and gruel, and com- 
forted her with promises of help, while she dressed the little 
baby as tenderly as if it had been her own. The girls, mean- 
time, spread the table, set the children round the fire, and fed 



LITTLE WOMEN 17 

them Ijioe so many hungry birds, laughing, talking, and try- 
ing to understand the funny broken English. 

" Das ist gut I " " Die Engel-kinder ! " cried the poor things, 
as they ate, and warmed their purple hands at the comfortable 
blaze. 

The girls had never been called angel children before, and 
thought it very agreeable, especially Jo, who had been con- 
sidered a " Sancho " ever since she was born. That was a very 
happy breakfast, though they did n't get any of it ; and when 
they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not 
in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls 
who gave away their breakfasts and contented themselves with 
bread and milk on Christmas morning. 

"""""That 's loving our neighbor better than ourselves, and I 
like it," said Meg, as they set out their presents, while their 
mother was upstairs collecting clothes for the poor Hummels. 

Not a very splendid show, but there was a great deal of love 
done up in the few little bundles ; and the tall vase of red roses, 
white chrysanthemums, and trailing vines, which stood in the 
middle, gave quite an elegant air to the table. 

" She 's coming ! Strike up, Beth ! Open the door, Amy ! 
Three cheers for Marmee ! " cried Jo, prancing about, while 
Meg went to conduct mother to the seat of honor. 

Beth played her gayest march, Amy threw open the door, 
and Meg enacted escort with great dignity. Mrs. March was 
both surprised and touched; and smiled with her eyes full as 
she examined her presents, and read the little notes which 
accompanied them. The slippers went on at once, a new hand- 
kerchief was slipped into her pocket, well scented with Amy's 
cologne, the rose was fastened in her bosom, and the nice 
gloves were pronounced a " perfect fit." 

There was a good deal of laughing and kissing and explain- 
ing, in the simple, loving fashion which makes these home- 
festivals so pleasant at the time, so sweet to remember long 
afterward, and then all fell to workT~~ 

The morning charities and ceremonies took so much time 



18 LITTLE WOMEN 

that the rest of the day was devoted to preparations for the 
evening festivities. -Being still too young to gc often to tbe 
theatre, and not rich enough to afford any great outlay for 
private performances, the girls put their wits to work, and 
necessity being the mother of invention made whatever they 
needed. Very clever were some of their productions, paste- 
board guitars, antique lamps made of old-fashioned butter- 
boats covered with silver paper, gorgeous robes of old cotton, 
glittering with tin spangles from a pickle factory, and armor 
covered with the same useful diamond-shaped bits, left in sheets 
when the lids of tin preserve-pots were cut out. The furni- 
ture was used to being turned tops,ysturvy, and the big chamber 
was the scene of many innocent ^eveH 

No gentlemen were admitted ; so Jo played male parts to her 
heart's content, and took immense satisfaction in a pair of rus- 
set-leather boots given her by a friend, who knew a lady who 
knew an actor. These boots, and old foil, and a slashed doublet 
once used by an artist for some picture, were Jo's chief treas- 
ures, and appeared on all occasions. The smallness of the com- 
pany made it necessary for the two principal actors to take sev- 
eral parts apiece ; and they certainly deserved some credit for the 
hard work they did in learning three or four different parts, 
whisking in and out of various costumes, and managing the 
stage besides. It was excellent drill for their memories, a 
harmless amusement, and employed many hours which other- 
wise would have been idle, lonety^ or spent in less profitable 
society. 

On Christmas night, a dozen girls piled on to the bed which 
was the dress-circle, and sat before the blue and yellow chintz 
curtains in a most flattering state of expectancy. There was a 
good deal of rustling and whispering behind the curtain, a 
trifle of lamp-smoke, and an occasional giggle from Amy, who 
was apt to get hysterical in the excitement of the moment. 
Presently a bell sounded, the curtains flew apart, and the 
Operatic Tragedy began. 

'' A gloomy wood," according to the one play-bill, was repre- 



LITTLE WOMEN 19 

rented by a few shrubs in pots, green baize on the floor, and a 
ave in the distance. This cave was made with a clothes-horse 
for a roof, bureaus for walls; and in it was a small furnace 
in full blast, with a black pot on it, and an old witch bending 
over it. The stage was dark, and the glow of the furnace had 
a fine effect, especially as real steam issued from the kettle 
when the witch took off the cover. A moment was allowed 
for the first thrill to subside; then Hugo, the villain, stalked 
in with a clanking sword at his side, a slouched hat, black beard, 
mysterious cloak, and the boots. After pacing to and fro in 
much agitation, he struck his forehead, and burst out in a 
wild strain, singing of his hatred to Roderigo, his love for 
Zara, and his pleasing resolution to kill the one and win the 
other. The gruff tones of Hugo's voice, with an occasional 
shout when his feelings overcame him, were very impressive, 
and the audience applauded the moment he paused for breath. 
Bowing with the air of one accustomed to public praise, he 
stole to the cavern, and ordered Hagar to come forth with a 
commanding " What ho, minion ! I need thee ! " 

Out came Meg, with gray horse-hair hanging about her face, 
a red and black robe, a staff, and cabalistic signs upon her 
cloak. Hugo demanded a potion to make Zara adore him, and 
one to destroy Roderigo. Hagar, in a fine dramatic melody, 
promised both, and proceeded to call up the spirit who would 
bring the love philter: 

"Hither, hither, from thy home, 
Airy sprite, I bid thee come! 
Born of roses, fed on dew, 
Charms and potions canst thou brew? 
Bring me here, with elfin speed, 
The fragrant philter which I need; 
Make it sweet and swift and strong, 
Spirit, anr.wer now my song!" 

A soft strain of music sounded, and then at the back of the 
cave appeared a little figure in cloudy white, with glittering 



20 LITTLE WOMEN 

wings, golden hair, and a garland of roses on its head. Waving 
a wand, it sang, 

"Hither I come 

From my airy home, 
Afar in the silver moon. 

Take the magic spell, 

And use it well, 
Or its power will vanish soon K f ' 

And, dropping a small, gilded bottle at the witch's feet, the 
spirit vanished. Another chant from Hagar produced another 
apparition, not a lovely one ; for, with a bang, an ugly black 
imp appeared, and having croaked a reply, tossed a dark bottle 
at Hugo, and disappeared with a mocking laugh. Having 
warbled his thanks and put the potions in his boots, Hugo 
departed; and Hagar informed the audience that, as he had 
killed a few of her friends in times past, she has cursed him, 
and intends to thwart his plans, and be revenged on him. Then 
the curtain fell, and the audience reposed and ate candy while 
discussing the merits of the play. 

A good deal of hammering went on before the curtain rose 
again ; but when it became evident what a masterpiece of stage- 
carpentering had been got up, no one murmured at the delay. 
It was truly superb! A tower rose to the ceiling; half-way 
up appeared a window, with a lamp burning at it, and behind 
the white curtain appeared Zara in a lovely blue and silver 
dress, waiting for Roderigo. He came in gorgeous array, with 
plumed cap, red cloak, chestnut love-locks, a guitar, and the 
boots, of course. Kneeling at the foot of the tower, he sang a 
serenade in melting tones. Zara replied, and, after a musical 
dialogue, consented to fly. Then came the grand effect of 
the play. Roderigo produced a rope-ladder, with five steps 
to it, threw up one end, and invited Zara to descend. Timidly 
she crept from her lattice, put her hand on Rcderigo's shoulder, 
and was about to leap gracefully down, when, "' Alas ! alas for 
Zara!'" she forgot her train, it caught in the window; the 



LITTLE WOMEN 21 

tower tottered, leaned forward, fell with a crash, and buried 
the unhappy lovers in the ruins ! 

A universal shriek arose as the russet boots waved wildly 
from the wreck, and a golden head emerged, exclaiming, " I 
told you so ! I told you so ! " With wonderful presence of 
mind, Don Pedro, the cruel sire, rushed in, dragged out his 
daughter, with a hasty aside, 

" Don't laugh ! Act as if it was all right ! " and, ordering 
Roderigo up, banished him from the kingdom with wrath and 
scorn. Though decidedly shaken by the fall of the tower upon 
him, Roderigo defied the old gentleman, and refused to stir. 
This dauntless example fired Zara : she also defied her sire, and 
he ordered them both to the deepest dungeons of the castle. 
A stout little retainer came in with chains, and led them away, 
looking very much frightened, and evidently forgetting the 
speech he ought to have made. 

Act third was the castle hall; and here Hagar appeared, 
having come to free the lovers and finish Hugo. She hears 
him coming, and hides ; sees him put the potions into two cups 
of wine, and bid the timid little servant " Bear them to the 
captives in their cells, and tell them I shall come anon." The 
servant takes Hugo aside to tell him something, and Hagar 
changes the cups for two others which are harmless. Ferdi- 
nando, the " minion," carries them away, and Hagar puts back 
the cup which holds the poison meant for Roderigo. Hugo, 
getting thirsty after a long warble, drinks it, loses his wits, and, 
after a good deal of clutching and stamping, falls flat and dies ; 
while Hagar informs him what she has done in a song of ex- 
quisite power and melody. 

This was a truly thrilling scene, though some persons might 
have thought that the sudden tumbling down of a quantity 
of long hair rather marred the effect of the villain's death. He 
was called before the curtain, and with great propriety ap- 
peared, leading Hagar, whose singing was considered more won- 
derful than all the rest of the performance put together. 

Act fourth displayed the despairing Roderigo on the point 



22 LITTLE WOMEN 

of stabbing himself, because he has been told that Zara has 
deserted him. Just as the dagger is at his heart, a lovely song 
is sung under his window, informing him that Zara is true, but 
in danger, and he can save her, if he will. A key is thrown 
in, which unlocks the door, and in a spasm of rapture he tears 
off his chains, and rushes away to find and rescue his lady-love. 

Act fifth opened with a stormy scene between Zara and Don 
Pedro. He wishes her to go into a convent, but she won't hear 
of it; and, after a touching appeal, is about to faint, when 
Roderigo dashes in and demands her han^-Iion Pedro refuses, 
because he is not rich. They shout and gesticulate' tremendously, 
but cannot agree, and Roderigo is about to bear away the 
exhausted Zara, when the timid servant enters with a letter and 
a bag from Hagar, who has mysteriously disappeared. The 
latter informs the party that she bequeaths untold wealth to 
the young pair, and an awful doom to Don Pedro, if he does n't 
make them happy. The bag is opened, and several quarts of 
tin money shower down upon the stage, till it is quite glorified 
with the glitter. This entirely softens the " stern sire " : he 
consents without a murmur, all join in a joyful chorus, and 
the curtain falls upon the lovers kneeling to receive Don Pedro's 
blessing in attitudes of the most romantic grace. 

Tumultous applause followed, but received an unexpected 
check ; for the cot-bed, on which the " dress-circle " was built, 
suddenly shut up, and extinguished the enthusiastic audience. 
Roderigo and Don Pedro flew to the rescue, and all were taken 
out unhurt, though many were speechless with laughter. The 
excitement had hardly subsided, when Hannah appeared, with 
" Mrs. March's compliments, and would the ladies walk down 
to supper." 

This was a surprise, even to the actors ; and, when they saw 
the table, they looked at one another in rapturous amazement. 
It was like Marmee to get up a little treat for them ; but any- 
thing so fine as this was unheard-of since the departed days of 
plenty. There was ice-cream, actually two dishes of it 
pink and white, and cake and fruit and distracting French 



LITTLE WOMEN 23 

bonbons, and, in the middle of the table, four great bouquets 
of hot-house flowers ! 

It quite took their breath away; and they stared first at the 
table and then at their mother, who looked as if she enjoyed it 
immensely. 

" Is it fairies ? " asked Amy. 

" It 's Santa Claus," said Beth. 

" Mother did it ; " and Meg smiled her sweetest, in spite of 
her gray beard and white eyebrows. 

" Aunt March had a good fit, and sent the supper," cried Jo, 
with a sudden inspiration. 

" All wrong. Old Mr. Laurence sent it," replied Mrs. March. 

" The Laurence boy's grandfather ! What in the world put 
such a thing into his head ? We don't know him ! " exclaimed 
Meg. 

" Hannah told one of his servants about your breakfast party. 
He is an odd old gentleman, but that pleased him. He knew 
my father, years ago ; and he sent me a polite note this after- 
noon, saying he hoped I would allow him to express his friendly 
feeling toward my children by sending them a few trifles in 
honor of the day. I could not refuse ; and so you have a little 
feast at night to make up for the bread-and-milk breakfast." 

" That boy put it into his head, I know he did ! He 's a 
capital fellow, and I wish we could get acquainted. He looks 
as if he 'd like to know us ; but he 's bashful, and Meg is so 
prim she won't let me speak to him when we pass," said Jo, 
as the plates went round, and the ice began to melt out of 
sight, with " Ohs ! " and " Ahs ! " of satisfaction. 

" You mean the people who live in the big house next door, 
don't you ? " asked one of the girls. " My mother knows old 
Mr. Laurence ; but says he 's very proud, and does n't like to 
mix with his neighbors. He keeps his grandson shut up, when 
he is n't riding or walking with his tutor, and makes him study 
very hard. We invited him to our party, but he did n't come. 
Mother says he's very nice, though he never speaks to us 
girls." 



24 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Our cat ran away once, and he brought her back, and we 
talked over the fence, and were getting on capitally, all about 
cricket, and so on, when he saw Meg coming, and walked off. 
I mean to know him some day ; for he needs fun, I 'm sure he 
does/' said Jo decidedly. 

" I like his manners, and he looks like a little gentleman ; so 
I Ve no objection to your knowing him, if a proper opportunity 
comes. He brought the flowers himself ; and I should have 
asked him in, if I had been sure what was going on upstairs. 
He looked so wistful as he went away, hearing the frolic, and 
evidently having none of his own." 

" It 's a mercy you did n't, mother ! " laughed Jo, looking 
at her boots. " But we '11 have another play, some time, that 
he can see. Perhaps he'll help act; wouldn't that be jolly?" 

" I never had such a fine bouquet before ! How pretty it is ! " 
And Meg examined her flowers with great interest. 

" They are lovely ! But Beth's roses are sweeter to me," 
said Mrs. March, smelling the half-dead posy in her belt. 

Beth nestled up to her, and whispered softly, " I wish I could 
send my bunch to father. I 'm afraid he is n't having such a 
merry Christmas as we are." 



CHAPTER III. 

THE LAURENCE BOY. 

"Jo! Jo! where are you?" cried Meg, at the foot of the 
garret stairs. 

" Here ! " answered a husky voice from above ; and, running 
up, Meg found her sister eating apples and crying over the 
" Heir of Redclyffe," wrapped up in a comforter on an old 
three-legged sofa by the sunny window. This was Jo's favorite 
refuge ; and here she loved to retire with half a dozen russets 
and a nice book, to enjoy the quiet and the society of^aTpet 
rat who lived near by, and did n't mind her a particle. As 



LITTLE WOMEN 25 

Meg appeared, Scrabble whisked into his hole. Jo shook the 
tears off her cheeks, and waited to hear the news. 

" Such fun ! only see ! a regular note of invitation from Mrs. 
Gardiner for to-morrow night ! " cried Meg, waving the pre- 
cious paper, and then proceeding to read it, with girlish delight 

" ( Mrs. Gardiner would be happy to see Miss March and 
Miss Josephine at a little dance on New-Year's Eve/ Marmee 
is willing we should go ; now what shall we wear ? " 

" What 's the use of asking that, when you know we shall 
wear our poplins, because we have n't got anything else ? " an- 
swered Jo, with her mouth full. 

" If I only had a silk ! " sighed Meg. " Mother says I may 
when I 'm eighteen, perhaps ; but two years is an everlasting 
time to wait." 

" I 'm sure our pops look like silk, and they are nice enough 
for us. Yours is as good as new, but I forgot the burn and 
the tear in mine. Whatever shall I do? the burn shows badly, 
and I can't take any out." 

" You must sit still all you can, and keep your back out of 
sight ; the front is all right. I shall have a new ribbon for my 
hair, and Marmee will lend me her little pearl pin, and my 
new slippers are lovely, and my gloves will do, though they 
are n't as nice as I 'd like." 

" Mine are spoilt with lemonade, and I can't get any new 
ones, so I shall have to go without," said Jo, who never troubled 
herself much about dress. 

" You must have gloves, or I won't go," cried Meg decidedly. 
" Gloves are more important than anything else ; you can't 
dance without them, and if you don't I should be so mortified." 

" Then I '11 stay still. I don't care much for company danc- 
ing ; it 's no fun to go sailing round ; I like to fly about and 
cut capers." 

" You can't ask mother for new ones, they are so expensive, 
and you are so careless. She said, when you spoilt the others, 
that she should n't get you any more this winter. Can't you 
make them do ? " asked Meg anxiously. 



26 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I can hold them crumpled up in my hand, so no one will 
know how stained they are ; that 's all I can do. No ! I '11 tell 
you how we can manage each wear one good one and carry 
a bad one ; don't you see ? " 

" Your hands are bigger than mine, and you will stretch my 
glove dreadfully," began Meg, whose gloves were a tender 
point with her. 

" Then I '11 go without. I don't care what people say ! " cried 
Jo, taking up her book. 

" You may have it, you may ! only don't stain it, and do 
behave nicely. Don't put your hands behind you, or stare, or 
say ' Christopher Columbus ! ' will you ? " 

" Don't worry about me ; I '11 be as prim as I can, and not 
get into any scrapes, if I can help it. Now go and answer your 
note, and let me finish this splendid story." 

So Meg went away to " accept with thanks," look over her 
dress, and sing blithely as she did up her one real lace frill; 
while Jo finished her story, her four apples, and had a game of 
romps with Scrabble. 

On New-Year's Eve the parlor was deserted, for the two 

younger girls played dressing-maids, and the two elder were 

absorbed in the all-important business of " getting ready for 

% the party." Simple as the toilets were, there was a great deal 

\ of running up and down, laughing and talking, and at one time 

I a strong smell of burnt hair pervaded the house. Meg wanted 

a few curls about her face, and Jo undertook to pinch the 

I papered locks with a pair of hot tongs. 

"Ought they to smoke like that?" asked Beth, from her 
perch on the bed. 

" It 's the dampness drying," replied Jo. 

" What a queer smell ! it 's like burnt feathers," observed 
Amy, smoothing her own pretty curls with a superior air. 

" There, now I '11 take off the papers and you '11 see a cloud 
of little ringlets," said Jo, putting down the tongs. 

She did take off the papers, but no cloud of ringlets appeared, 
for the hair came with the papers, and the horrified hair-dresser 



LITTLE WOMEN 27 

laid a row of little scorched bundles on the bureau before her 
victim. 

" Oh, oh, oh ! what have you done ? I 'm spoilt ! I can't go ! 
My hair, oh, my hair ! " wailed Meg, looking with despair at 
the uneven frizzle on her forehead. 

"Just my luck! you shouldn't have asked me to do it; I 
always spoil everything. I 'm so sorry, but the tongs were too 
hot, and so I 've made a mess," groaned poor Jo, regarding 
the black pancakes with tears of regret. 

" It is n't spoilt ; just frizzle it, and tie your ribbon so the 
ends come on your forehead a bit, and it will look like the last 
fashion. I Ve seen many girls do it so," said Amy consolingly, 

" Serves me right for trying to be fine. I wish I 'd let my 
hair alone," cried Meg petulantly. 

" So do I, it was so smooth and pretty. But it will soon 
grow out again," said Beth, coming to kiss and comfort the 
shorn sheep. 

After various lesser mishaps, Meg was finished at last, and 
by the united exertions of the family Jo's hair was got up and 
her dress on. They looked very well in their simple suits, 
Meg in silvery drab, with a blue velvet snood, lace frills, and 
the pearl pin; Jo in maroon, with a stiff, gentlemanly linen 
collar, and a white chrysanthemum or two for her only orna- 
ment. Each put on one nice light glove, and carried one soiled 
one, and all pronounced the effect " quite easy and fine." Meg's 
high-heeled slippers were very tight, and hurt her, though she 
would not own it. and Jo's nineteen hair-pins all seemed stuck / 
straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable; ,/ 
but, dear me, let us be elegant or die ! 

" Have a good time, dearies ! " said Mrs. March, as the sisters 
went daintily down the walk. " Don't eat much supper, and 
come away at eleven, when I send Hannah for you." As the 
gate clashed behind them, a voice cried from a window, 

" Girls, girls ! have you both got nice pocket-handkerchiefs ? " 

" Yes, yes, spendy nice, and Meg has cologne on hers," cried 
Jo, adding, with a laugh, as they went on, " I do believe Marmee 



28 LITTLE WOMEN 

would ask that if we were all running away from an earth- 
quake." 

" It is one of her aristocratic tastes, and quite proper, for a 
reallady_ is always known by neat boots, gloves, and handker- 
chief," replied Meg, who had a good many little " aristocratic 
tastes " of her own. 

" Now don't forget to keep the bad breadth out of sight, 
Jo. Is my sash right ? and does my hairjook ^gry_bao^? " said 
Meg,^as" sheTurned from the glass in MrsT Gammer's dressing- 
room, after a prolonged prink. 

" I know I shall forget. If you see me doing anything wrong, 
v just remind me by a wink, will you? " returned Jo, giving her 
collar a twitch and her head a hasty brush. 

" No, winking is n't jady-like ; I '11 lift my eyebrows if any- 
thing is wrong, and nod if you are all right. Now hold your 
shoulders straight, and take short steps, and don't shake hands 
if you are introduced to any one : it is n't the thing." 
< ~ " How do you learn all the proper ways ? I never can. Is n't 
that music gay? " 

Down they went, feeling a trifle timid, for they seldom went 
to parties, and, informal as this little gathering was, it was an 
event to them. Mrs. Gardiner, a stately old lady, greeted them 
kindly, and handed them over to the eldest of her six daughters. 
Meg knew Sallie, and was at her ease very soon ; but Jo, who 
did n't care much for girls or girlish gossip^ stood about with 
her back carefully against the wall, and felt as much out of place 
as a colt in a flower-garden. Half a dozen jovial lads were talk- 
ing about skates in another part of the room, and she longed 
to go and join them, for skating was one of the joys of her 
life. She telegraphed her wish to Meg, but the eyebrows went 
up so alarmingly that she dared not stir. No one came to talk 
to her, and one by one the group near her dwindled away, till 
she was left alone. She could not roam about and amuse her- 
self, for the burnt breadth would show, so she stared at people 
rather forlornly till the dancing began. Meg was asked at once, 
and the tight slippers tripped about so briskly that none would 






LITTLE WOMEN 29 

have guessed the pain their wearer suffered smilingly. Jo saw 
a big red-headed youth approaching her corner, and fearing he 
meant to engage her, she slipped into a curtained recess, intend- 
ing to peep and enjoy herself in peace. Unfortunately, another 
bashful person had chosen the same refuge ; for, as the curtain 
fell behind her, she found herself face to face with the " Laur- 
ence boy." 

" Dear me, I did n't know any one was here ! " stammered 
Jo, preparing to back out as speedily as she had bounced in. 

But the boy laughed, and said pleasantly, though he looked 
a little startled, 

" Don't mind me ; stay, if you like," 

"Sha'n't I disturb you?" 

" Not a bit ; I only came here because I don't know many 
people, and felt rather strange at first, you know." 

" So did I. Don't go away, please, unless you 'd rather." 

The boy sat down again and looked at his pumps, till Jo said, 
trying to be polite and easy, 

" I think I Ve had the pleasure of seeing you before ; you live 
near us, don't you ? " 

" Next door ; " and he looked up and laughed outright, for 
Jo's prim manner was rather funny when he remembered how 
they had chatted about cricket when he brought the cat home. 

That put Jo at her ease; and she laughed too, as she said, 
in her heartiest way, 

" We did have such a good time over your nice Christmas 
present." 

" Grandpa sent it." 

" But you put it into his head, did n't you, now ? " 

" How is your cat, Miss March ? " asked the boy, trying to 
look sober, while his black eyes shone with fun. 

" Nicely, thank you, Mr. Laurence ; but I am not Miss March, 
I 'm only Jo," returned the young lady. 

" I 'm not Mr. Laurence, I 'm only Laurie." 

" Laurie Laurence, what an odd name ! " 



30 LITTLE WOMEN 

" My first name is Theodore, but I don't like it, for the 
fellows called me Dora, so I made them say Laurie instead." 

" I hate my name, too so sentimental ! I wish every one 
would say Jo, instead of Josephine. How did you make the 
boys stop calling you Dora ? " 

" I thrashed 'em." 

" I can't thrash Aunt March, so I suppose I shall have to 
bear it ; " and Jo resigned herself with a sigh. 

" Don't you like to dance, Miss Jo ? " asked Laurie, looking 
as if he thought the name suited her. 

" I like it well enough if there is plenty of room, and every 
one is lively. In a place like this I 'm sure to upset something, 
tread on people's toes, or do something dreadful, so I keep out 
of mischief, and let Meg sail about. Don't you dance?" 

" Sometimes ; you see I 've been abroad a good many years, 
and have n't been into company enough yet to know how you 
do things here." 

" Abroad ! " cried Jo. " Oh, tell me about it ! I love dearly 
to hear people describe their travels." 

Laurie did n't seem to know where to begin ; but Jo's eager 
questions soon set him going, and he told her how he had been 
at school in Vevay, where the boys never wore hats, and had a 
fleet of boats on the lake, and for holiday fun went walking 
trips about Switzerland with their teachers. 

" Don't I wish I 'd been there ! " cried Jo. " Did you go to 
Paris?" 

" We spent last winter there." 

"Can you talk French?" 

" We were not allowed to speak anything else at Vevay." 

" Do say some ! I can read it, but can't pronounce." 

" Quel nom a cette jeune demoiselle en les pantoufles jolis ? " 
said Laurie good-naturedly. 

" How nicely you do it ! Let me see, you said, ' Who 
is the young lady in the pretty slippers,' did n't you ? " 

" Oui, mademoiselle." 



LITTLE WOMEN 31 

" It 's my sister Margaret, and you knew it was ! Do you 
think she is pretty ? " 

" Yes ; she makes me think of the German girls, she looks 
so fresh and quiet, and dances like a lady." 

Jo quite glowed with pleasure at this boyish praise of her 
sister, and stored it up to repeat to Meg. Both peeped and 
criticised and chatted, till they felt like old acquaintances. 
Laurie's bashfulness soon wore off; for Jo'sj^entlemanly de- 
meanor amused and set him at his ease, and Jo was her merry 
_self Jigain, because her dress was forgotten, and nobody lifted 
their eyebrows at hen_ She liked the " Laurence boy " better 
than ever, and took several good looks at him, so that she might 
describe him to the girls ; for they had no brothers, very few 
male cousins, and boys were almost unknown creatures to them. 

" Curly black hair ; brown skin ; big black eyes ; handsome 
nose; fine teeth; small hands and feet; taller than I am; very 
polite, for a boy, and altogether jolly. Wonder how old he 
is?" 

It was on the tip of Jo's tongue to ask ; but she checked her- 
self in time, and, with unusual tact, tried to find out in a round- 
about way. 

" I suppose you are going to college soon ? I see you pegging 
away at your books, no, I mean studying hard ; " and Jo 
blushed at the dreadful " pegging " which had escaped her. 

Laurie smiled, but did n't seem shocked, and answered, with 
a shrug, 

" Not for a year or two ; I won't go before seventeen, any- 
way." 

" Are n't you but fifteen? " asked Jo, looking at the tall lad, 
whom she had imagined seventeen already. 

" Sixteen, next month." 

" How I wish I was going to college ! You don't look as 
if you liked it." 

"I hate it! Nothing but grinding or skylarking. And J 
lon't like the way fellows do either, in this country." 

"What do you like?" 



32 LITTLE WOMEN 

" To live in Italy, and to enjoy myself in my own way." 

Jo wanted very much to ask what his own way was ; but his 
black brows looked rather threatening as he knit them ; so she 
changed the subject by saying, as her foot kept time, " That 's 
a splendid polka ! Why don't you go and try it ? " 

" If you will come too," he answered, with a gallant little 
bow. 

" I can't ; for I told Meg I would n't, because " There 
Jo stopped, and looked undecided whether to tell or to laugh. 

" Because what ? " asked Laurie curiously. 

"You won't tell?" 

" Never ! " 

" Well, I have a bad trick of standing before the fire, and 
so I burn my frocks, and I scorched this one ; and, though it 's 
nicely mended, it shows, and Meg told me to keep still, so no 
one would see it. You may laugh, if you want to ; it is funny, 
I know." 

But Laurie did n't laugh ; he only looked down a minute, and 
the expression of his face puzzled Jo, when he said very 
gently, 

" Never mind that ; I '11 tell you how we can manage : there's 
a long hall out there, and we can dance grandly, and no one 
will see us. Please come ? " 

Jo thanked him, and gladly went, wishing she had two neat 
gloves, when she saw the nice, pearl-colored ones her partner 
wore. The hall was empty, and they had a grand polka; for 
Laurie danced well, and taught her the German step, which 
delighted Jo, being full of swing and spring. When the music 
stopped., they sat down on the stairs to get their breath; and 
Laurie was in the midst of an account of a students' festival 
at Heidelberg, when Meg appeared in search of her sister. She 
beckoned, and Jo reluctantly followed her into a side room, 
where she found her on a sofa, holding her foot, and looking 
pale. 

" I Ve sprained my ankle. That stupid high heel turned, 
and gave me a sad wrench. It aches so, I can hardly stand, 



LITTLE WOMEN 33 

and I don't know how I 'm ever going to get home/' she said, 
rocking to and fro in pain. 

" I knew you 'd hurt your feet with those silly shoes. I 'm 
sorry. But I don't see what you can do, except get a carriage, 
or stay here all night," answered Jo, softly rubbing the poor 
ankle as she spoke. 

" I can't have a carriage, without its costing ever so much. 
I dare say I can't get one at all ; for most people come in their 
own, and it 's a long way to the stable, and no one to send." 

" I '11 go." 

" No indeed ! It 's past nine, and dark as Egypt. I can't 
stop here, for the house is full. Sallie has some girls staying 
with her. I '11 rest till Hannah comes, and then do the best 
I can." 

" I '11 ask Laurie ; he will go," said Jo, looking relieved as 
the idea occurred to her. 

" Mercy, no ! Don't ask or tell anyone. Get me my rubbers, 
and put these slippers with our things. I can't dance any more ; 
but as soon as supper is over, watch for Hannah, and tell me 
the minute she comes." 

" They are going out to supper now. I '11 stay with you ; 
I 'd rather." 

" No, dear, run along, and bring me some coffee. I 'm so 
tired, I can't stir ! " 

So Meg reclined, with rubbers well hidden, and Jo went 
blundering away to the dining-room, which she found after 
going into a china-closet, and opening the door of a room where 
old Mr. Gardiner was taking a little private refreshment. Mak- 
ing a dart at the table, she secured the coffee, which she im- 
mediately spilt, thereby making the front of her dress as bad 
as the back. 

" Oh, dear, what a blunderbuss I am ! " exclaimed Jo, finish- 
ing Meg's glove by scrubbing her gown with it. 

"Can I. help you?" said a friendly voice; and there was 
Laurie, with a full cup in one hand and a plate of ice in the 
other. 



34 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I was trying to get something for Meg, who is very tired, 
and some one shook me; and here I am, in a nice state," an- 
swered Jo, glancing dismally from the stained skirt to the 
coffee-colored glove. 

" Too bad ! I was looking for some one to give this to. 
May I take it to your sister ? " 

" Oh, thank you ! I '11 show you where she is. I don't offer 
to take it myself, for I should only get into another scrape if 
I did." 

Jo led the way; and, as if used to waiting on ladies, Laurie 
drew up a little table, brought a second instalment of coffee 
and ice for Jo, and was so obliging that even particular Meg 
pronounced him a " nice boy." They had a merry time over 
the bonbons and mottoes, and were in the midst of a quiet game 
of " Buzz," with two or three other young people who had 
strayed in, when Hannah appeared. Meg forgot her foot, and 
rose so quickly that she was forced to catch hold of Jo, with an 
exclamation of pain. 

" Hush ! Don't say anything," she whispered, adding aloud, 
"It's nothing. I turned my foot a little, that's all;" and 
limped upstairs to put her things on. 

Hannah scolded, Meg cried, and Jo was at her wits' end, 
till she decided to take things into her own hands. Slipping 
out, she ran down, and, finding a servant, asked if he could get 
her a carriage. It happened to be a hired waiter, who knew 
nothing about the neighborhood ; and Jo was looking round for 
help, when Laurie, who had heard what she said, came up, and 
offered his grandfather's carriage, which had just come for 
him, he said. 

" It 's so early ! You can't mean to go yet ? " began Jo, look- 
ing relieved, but hesitating to accept the offer. 

" I always go early, I do, truly ! Please let me take you 
home, It 's all on my way, you know, and it rains, they say." 

That settled it; and, telling him of Meg's mishap, Jo grate- 
fully accepted, and rushed up to bring down the rest of the 
party. Hannah hated rain as much as a cat does ; so she made 



LITTLE WOMEN 35 

no trouble, and they rolled away in the luxurious close carriage, 
feeling very festive and elegant. Laurie went on the box; so 
Meg could keep her foot up, and the girls talked over their 
party in freedom. 

" I had a capital time. Did you ? " asked Jo, rumpling up 
her hair, and making herself comfortable. 

" Yes, till I hurt myself. Sallie's friend, Annie Moffat, took 
a fancy to me, and asked me to come and spend a week with 
her, when Sallie does. She is going in the spring, when the 
opera comes; and it will be perfectly splendid, if mother only 
lets me go," answered Meg, cheering up at the thought. 

" I saw you dancing with the red-headed man I ran away 
from. Was he nice ? " 

" Oh, very ! His hair is auburn, not red ; and he was very 
polite, and I had a delicious redowa with him." 

" He looked like a grasshopper in a fit, when he did the new 
step. Laurie and I could n't help laughing. Did you hear us ? " 

" No ; but it was very rude. What were you about all that 
time, hidden away there ? " 

Jo told her adventures, and, by the time she had finished, 
they were at home. With many thanks, they said " Good- 
night," and crept in, hoping to disturb no one ; but the instant 
their door creaked, two little night-caps bobbed up, and two 
sleepy but eager voices cried out, 

" Tell about the party ! tell about the party ! " 

With what Meg called " a great want of manners," Jo had 
saved some bonbons for the little girls ; and they soon subsided, 
after hearing the most thrilling events of the evening. 

" I declare, it really seems like being a fine young lady, to 
come home from the party in a carriage, and sit in my dressing- 
gown, with a maid to wait on me," said Meg, as Jo bound up 
her foot with arnica, and brushed her hair. 

" I don't believe fine young ladies enjoy themselves a bit 
more than we do, in spite of our burnt hair, old gowns, one 
glove apiece, and tight slippers that sprain our ankles when we 



36 LITTLE WOMEN 

are really silly enough to wear them." And I think Jo was 
quite right. 



CHAPTER IV. 

BURDENS. 

" OH dear, how hard it does seem to take up our packs and 
go on," sighed Meg, the morning after the party ; for, now the 
holidays were over, the week of merry-making did not fit her 
for going on easily with the task she never liked. 

" I wish it was Christmas or New- Year all the time ; would n't 
it be fun ? " answered Jo, yawning dismally. 

" We should n't enjoy ourselves half so much as we do now. 
But it does seem so nice to have little suppers and bouquets, and 
go to parties, and drive home, and read and rest, and not work. 
It 's like other people, you know, and I always envy girls who 
do such things ; I *m so fond of luxury," said Meg, trying to 
decide which of two shabby gowns was the least shabby. 

" Well, we can't have it, so don't let us grumble, but shoulder 
our bundles and trudge along as cheerfully as Marmee does. 
I 'm sure Aunt March is a regular Old Man of the Sea to me, 
but I suppose when I Ve learned to carry her without complain- 
ing, she will tumble off, or get so light that I sha'n't mind her." 

This idea tickled Jo's fancy, and put her in good spirits; 
but Meg did n't brighten, for her burden, consisting of four 
spoilt children, seemed heavier than ever. She had n't heart 
enough even to make herself pretty, as usual, by putting on a 
blue neck-ribbon, and dressing her hair in the most becoming 
way. 

" Where 's the use of looking nice, when no one sees me but 
those cross midgets, and no one cares whether I 'm pretty or 
not? " she muttered, shutting her drawer with a jerk. " I shall 
have to toil and moil all my days, with only little bits of fun 
now and then, and get old and ugly and sour, because I 'm poor, 
and can't enjoy my life as other girls do It's a shame J" 



LITTLE WOMEN 37 

So Meg went down, wearing an injured look, and was n't 
at all agreeable at breakfast-time. Every one seemed rather 
out of sorts, and inclined to croak. Beth had a headache, and 
lay on the sofa, trying to comfort herself with the cat and 
three kittens; Amy was fretting because her lessons were not 
learned, and she could n't find her rubbers ; Jo would whistle 
and make a. great racket getting ready; Mrs. March was very 
busy trying to finish a letter, which must go at once; and 
Hannah had the grumps, for being up late did n't suit her. 

" There never was such a cross family ! " cried Jo, losing her 
temper when she had upset an inkstand, broken both boot-lac- 
ings, and sat down upon her hat. 

" You 're the Grossest person in it ! " returned Amy, washing 
out the sum, that was all wrong, with the tears that had fallen 
on her slate. 

" Beth, if you don't keep these horrid cats down cellar I '11 
have them drowned," exclaimed Meg angrily, as she tried to get 
rid of the kitten, which had scrambled up her back, and stuck 
like a burr just out of reach. 

Jo laughed, Meg scolded, Beth implored, and Amy wailed, 
because she could n't remember how much nine times twelve 
was. 

" Girls, girls, do be quiet one minute ! I must get this off 
by the early mail, and you drive me distracted with your 
worry," cried Mrs. March, crossing out the third spoilt sentence 
in her letter. 

There was a momentary lull, broken by Hannah, who stalked 
in, laid two hot turn-overs on the table, and stalked out again. 
These turn-overs were an institution ; and the girls called them 
" muffs," for they had no others, and found the hot pies very 
comforting to their hands on cold mornings. Hannah never 
forgot to make them, no matter how busy or grumpy she 
might be, for the walk was long and bleak; the poor things 
got no other lunch, and were seldom home before two. 

" Cuddle vour cats, and get over your headache, Bethy. 
Good-by, Marmee; we are a set of rascals this morning, out 



38 LITTLE WOMEN 

we *n come home regular angels. Now then, Meg ! " and jo 
tramped away, feeling that the pilgrims were not setting out 
as they ought to do. 

They always looked back before turning the corner, for their 
mother was always at the window, to nod and smile, and wave 
her hand to them. Somehow it seemed as if they could n't have 
gone through the day without that; for, whatever their mood 
might be, the last glimpse of that motherly face was sure to 
affect them like sunshine. 

"If Marmee shook her fist instead of kissing her hand to 
us, it would serve us right, for more ungrateful wretches than 
we are were never seen," cried Jo, taking a remorseful satis- 
faction in the snowy walk and bitter wind. 

" Don't use such dreadful expressions," said Meg, from the 
depths of the veil in which she had shrouded herself like a nun 
sick of the world. 

" I like good strong words, that mean something," replied 
Jo, catching her hat as it took a leap off her head, preparatory 
to flying away altogether. 

" Call yourself any names you like ; but 7 am neither a rascal 
nor a wretch, and I don't choose to be called so." 

" You 're a blighted being, and decidedly cross to-day because 
you can't sit in the lap of luxury all the time. x -oor dear, just 
wait till I make my fortune, and you shall f revel) in carriages 
and ice-cream and high-heeled slippers ancr-pdsies and red- 
headed boys to dance with." 

" How ridiculous you are, Jo ! " but Meg laughed at the 
nonsense, and felt better in spite of herself. 

" Lucky for you I am ; for if I put on crushed airs, and tried 
to be dismal, as you do, we should be in a nice state. Thank 
goodness, j^_can always_find something funny to keep me up. 
Don't croak any more, but come home jolly, there 's a dear." 

Jo gave her sister an encouraging pat on the shoulder as 
they parted for the day, each going a different way, each hug- 
ging her little warm turn-over, and each trying to be cheerful 



LITTLE WOMEN 39 

in spite nf wintry weather, hard work, and the unsatisfied de- 
sires of pleasure-loving youth. 

When Mr. March lost his property in trying to help an un- 
fortunate friend, the two oldest girls begged to be allowed to 
do something toward their own support, at least. Believing that 
they could not begin too early to cultivate energy, industry, and 
independence, their parents consented, and both fell to work, 
with the hearty good-will which in spite of all obstacles, is 
sure to succeed at last. Margaret found a place as nursery gov- 
erness, and felt rich with her small salary. As she said, she 
was " fond of luxury," and her chief trouble was poverty. 
She found it harder to bear than the others, because she could 
remember a time when home was beautiful, life full of ease 
and pleasure, and want) of any kind unknown. She tried not 
to be envious orcfiscontented, but it was very natural that 
the young girl should long for pretty things, gay friends, ac- 
complishments, and a happy life. At the Kings' she daily saw 
all she wanted, for the children's older sisters were just out, 
and Meg caught frequent glimpses of dainty ball-dresses and 
bouquets, heard lively gossip about theatres, concerts, sleigh- 
ing parties, and merry-makings of all kinds, and saw money 
lavished on trifles which would have been so precious to her. 
Poor Meg seldom complained, but a sense of injustice made 
her feel bitter toward every one sometimes, for she had not 
yet learned to know how rich she was in the blessings which 
alone can make life happy. 

Jo happened to suit Aunt March, who was lame, and needed 
an active person to wait upon her. The childless old lady had 
offered to adopt one of the girls when the troubles came, and 
was much offended because her offer was declined. Other 
friends told the Marches that they had lost all chance of being 
remembered in the rich old lady's will; but the unworldly 
Marches only said, 

" We can't give up our girls for a dozen fortunes. Rich or 
poor, we will keep together and be happy in one another." 

The old lady would n't speak to them for a time, but happen^ 



40 LITTLE WOMEN 

ing to meet Jo at a friend's, something in her comical face and 
blunt manners struck the old lady's fancy, and she proposed to 
take her for a companion. This did not suit Jo at all ; but she 
accepted the place since nothing better appeared, and, Jo every 
one's surprise, got on remarkably well with her(irascible) rela- 
tive. There was an occasional tempest, and once Jo had 
marched home, declaring she could n't bear it any longer ; but 
Aunt March always cleared up quickly, and sent for her back 
again with such urgency that she could not refuse, for in her 
heart she rather liked the peppery old lady. 

I suspect that the real attraction was a large library of fine 
books, which was left to dust and spiders since Uncle March 
died. Jo remembered the kind old gentleman, who used to 
let her build railroads and bridges with his big dictionaries, tell 
her stories about the queer pictures in his Latin books, and 
buy her cards of gingerbread whenever he met her in the street. 
The dim, dusty-room, with the busts staring down from the 
tall book-cases, the cosey chairs, the globes, and, best of all, the 
wilderness of books, in which she could wander where she liked, 
made the library a region of bliss to her. The moment Aunt 
March took her nap, or was busy with company, Jo hurried to 
this quiet place, and curling herself up in the easv-chair. de- 
Tflttfea poetry, romance, history, travelsTjind_^ctia^J^ a 
regular book-worm. But, like all happiness, it did not last long ; 
for as sure as she had just reached the heart of the story, the 
sweetest verse of the song, or the most perilous adventure of 
her traveller, a shrill voice called, " Josy-phine ! Josy-phine ! " 
and she had to leave her paradise to wind yarn, wash the poodle, 
or read Belsham's Essays by the hour together. 

Jo's ambition was to do something very splendidj^jKhat^if 
was she had no jdea^as^vet, but lefFTFTor time to tell her ; and, 
meanwhile, found her greatest affliction in the fact that she 
couldn't read, run, and ride as much as she liked. A quick 
temper, sharp tongue, and restless spirit were always getting 
her into scrapes, and her life was a series of ups and downs, 
which were both . comic and pathetic. But the training she 



LITTLE WOMEN 41 

received at Aunt March's was just what she needed; and the 
thought that she was doing something to support herself made 
her happy, in spite of the perpetual " Josy-phine ! " 

Beth was too bashful to go to school ; it had been tried, but 
she suffered so much that it was given up, and she did her les- 
sons at home with her father. Even when he went away, and 
her mother was called to devote her skill and energy to Soldiers' 
Aid Societies, Beth went faithfully on by herself, and did the 
best she could. She was a housewifely little creature, and 
helped Hannah keep home neat and comfortable for the workers, 
never thinking of any reward but to be loved. Long, quiet 
days sKe spent, not lonely nor idle, for her little world was 
peopled with imaginary friends, and she was by nature a busy 
bee. There were six dolls to be taken up and dressed every 
morning, for Beth was a child still, and loved her pets as well 
as ever. Not one whole or handsome one among them; all 
were outcasts till Beth took them in ; for, when her sisters out- 
grew these idols, they passed to her, because Amy would have 
nothing old or ugly. Beth cherished them all the more tenderly 
for that very reason, and set up a hospital for infirm dolls. 
No pins were ever stuck into their cotton vitals ; no harsh words 
or blows were ever given them; no neglect ever saddened the 
heart of the most repulsive : but all were fed and clothed, nursed 
and caressed, with an affection which never failed. One forlorn 
fragment of dollanity had belonged to Jo; and, having led a 
tempestuous life, was left a wreck in the rag-bag, from which 
dreary poorhouse it was rescued by Beth, and taken to her 
refuge. Having no top to its head, she tied on a neat little 
cap, and, as both arms and legs were gone, she hid these deficien- 
cies by folding it in a blanket, and devoting her best bed to this 
chronic invalid. If any one had known the care lavished on that 
dolly, 1 think it^miM-kme. luuilml Ll^iKtgartig, even while 
they laughed. Sne brought it bits of bouquets; slie read to~Tt, 
took it- out to breathe the air, hidden under her coat ; she sung 
It lullabys, and never went to bed without kissing its dirty face, 



42 LITTLE WOMEN 

and whispering tenderly, " I hope you '11 have a good night, 
my poor dear." 

Beth had her troubles as well as the others; and not being 
an angei, but a very human little girl, she often " w^p_t_ajittle_ 
weep," as Jo said, because she could n't take music lessons and 
"have^a fine piano. She loved music so dearly, tried so hard to 
learn, and practised away so patiently at the jingling old instru- 
ment, that it did seem as if some one (not to hint Aunt March) 
ought to help her. Nobody did, however, and nobody saw Beth 
wipe the tears off the yellow keys, that would n't keep in tune, 
when she was all alone. She sang like a little lark about her 
work, never was too tired to play for Marmee and the girls, 
and day after day said hopefully to herself, " I know I '11 get 
my music some time, if I 'm good." 

There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in 
corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no 
one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops 
chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving 
silence and shadow behind. 

If anybody had asked Amy what the greatest trial of her 
life was, she would have answered at once, " My nose." When 
she was a baby, Jo had accidently dropped her into the coal-hod, 
and Amy insisted that the fall had ruined her nose forever. 
It was not big, nor red, like poor " Petrea's " ; it was only 
rather flat, and all the pinching in the world could not give , ^ 
it an aristocratic point. No one minded it but herself, andV 
it was doing its best to grow, but Amy felt deeply the want of 1 
a Grecian nose, and drew whole sheets of handsome ones to I 
console herself. 

" Little Raphael," as her sisters called her, had a decided 
talent for drawing, and was never so happy as when copying 
flowers, designing fairies, or illustrating stories with queer 
specimens of art. Her teachers complained that, instead of 
doing her sums, she covered her slate with animals ; the blank 
pages of her atlas were used to copy maps on ; and caricatures 
of the most ludicrous description came fluttering out of all her 



LITTLE WOMEN 43 

books at unlucky moments. She got through her lessons as well 
as she could, and managed to escape reprimands by being a 
model of deportment. She was a great favorite with her mates, 
being good-tempered, and possessing the happy art of pleasing 
without effort. Her little airs and graces were much admired, 
so were her accomplishments ; for beside her drawing, she could 
play twelve tunes, crochet, and read French without mispro- 
nouncing more than two thirds of the words. She had a plain- 
tive way of saying, " When papa was rich we did so-and-so," 
which was very touching ; and her long words were considered 
" perfectly elegant " by the girls. 

Amy was in a fair way to be spoilt; for every one petted 
her, and her small vanities and selfishnesses were growing nicely. 
One thing, however, rather quenched the vanities; she had to 
wear her cousin's clothes. Now Florence's mamma had n't 
a particle of taste, and Amy suffered deeply at having to wear 
a red instead of a blue bonnet, unbecoming gowns, and fussy 
aprons that did not fit. Everything was good, well made, 
and little worn; but Amy's artistic eyes were much afflicted, 
especially this winter, when her school dress was a dull purple, 
with yellow dots, and no trimming. 

"My only comfort," she said to Meg, with tears in her eyes, 
" is that mother don't take tucks in my dresses whenever I 'm 
naughty, as Maria Parks' mother does. My dear, it's really 
dreadful; for sometimes she is so bad, her frock is up to her 
knees, and she can't come to school. When I think of this 
deggerredation, I feel that I can bear even my flat nose and 
purple gown, with yellow sky-rockets on it." 

Meg was Amy's confidant and monitor, and, by some strange 
attraction of opposites, Jo was gentle Beth's. To Jo alone did 
the_shy child tell her thoughts ; and nver frer big harnm-sramm. 
sister, -Beth unconsciously exercised more influence than anyone 
jyT The two older girls were a great deal to one 



another, but each took one of the younger into her keeping, 
and watched over her in her own way ; " playing mother " they 



44 LITTLE WOMEN 

called it, and put their sisters in the places of discarded 
with the maternal instinct of little women. 

" Has anybody got anything to tell ? It 's been such a dismal 
day I y m really dying for some amusement," said Meg, as they 
sat sewing together that evening. 

" I had a queer time with aunt to-day, and, as I got the best 
of it, I '11 tell you about it," began Jo, who dearly loved to tell 
stories. " I was reading that everlasting Belsham, and droning 
away as I always do, for aunt soon drops off, and then I take 
out some nice book, and read like fury till she wakes up. I 
actually made myself sleepy; and, before she began to nod, 
I gave such a gape that she asked me what I meant by opening 
my mouth wide enough to take the whole book in at once. 

" ' I wish I could, and be done with it,' said I, trying not to 
be saucy. 

" Then she gave me a long lecture on my sins, and told me 
to sit and think them over while she just ' lost ' herself for a 
moment. She never finds herself very soon ; so the minute her 
cap began to bob, like a top-heavy dahlia, I whipped the ' Vicar 
of Wakefield ' out of my pocket, and read away, with one eye 
on him, and one on aunt. I 'd just got to where they all tumbled 
into the water, when I forgot, and laughed out loud. Aunt 
woke up ; and, being more good-natured after her nap told me 
to read a bit, and show what frivolous work I preferred to the 
worthy and instructive Belsham. I did my very best, and she 
liked it, though she only said, 

" ' I don't understand what it 's all about. Go back and begin 
it, child/ 

" Back I went, and made the Primroses as interesting as ever 
I could. Once I was wicked enough to stop in a thrilling place, 
and say meekly, ' I 'm afraid it tires you, ma'am ; sha'n't I stop 
now? ' 

" She caught up her knitting, which she had dropped out of 
her hands, gave me a sharp look through her specs, and said, 
in her short way, 

" * Finish the chapter, and don't be impertinent, miss.' " 



LITTLE WOMEN 45' 

" Did siv own she liked it ? " asked Meg. 

" Oh, bless you, no ! but she let old Belsham rest ; and, when 
I ran back after my gloves this afternoon, there she was, so 
hard at the Vicar that sheJidJilLJieajr _me :JaughjisJ[ danced 
ajig in the, hall, hmn** of fa> gn^tf time coming. What a 
pleasant life she might have, if she only chose. I don't envy 
her much, in spite of her money, for after all rich people have 
about as many worries as poor ones, I think," added Jo. 

" That reminds me," said Meg, " that I 'ye got something to 
tell. It is n't funny, like Jo's story, but I thought about it a 
good deal as I came home. At the Kings' to-day I found every- 
body in a flurry, and one of the children said that her oldest 
brother had done something dreadful, and papa had sent him 
away. I heard Mrs. King crying and. Mr. King talking very 
loud, and Grace and Ellen turned away their faces when they 
passed me, so I shouldn't see how red their eyes were. I 
did n't ask any questions, of course ; but I felt so sorry for them, 
and was rather glad I had n't any wild brothers to do wicked 
things and disgrace the family." 

" I think being disgraced in school is a great deal tryinge? 
than anything bad boys can do," said Amy, shaking her head, 
as if her experience of life had been a deep one. " Susie 
Perkins came to school to-day with a lovely red carnelian ring ; 
I wanted it dreadfully, and wished I was her with all my might 
Well, she drew a picture of Mr. Davis, with a monstrous nose 
and a hump, and the words, ' Young ladies, my eye is upon 
you ! ' coming out of his mouth in a balloon thing. We were 
laughing over it, when all of a sudden his eye was on us, and 
he ordered Susie to bring up her slate. She was />arrylized 
with fright, but she went, and oh, what do you think he did? 
He took her by the ear, the ear ! just fancy how horrid ! 
and led her to the recitation platform, and made her stand there 
half an hour, holding that slate so every one could see." 

"Didn't the girls laugh at the picture?" asked Jo, who 
relished the scrape. 

"Laugh? Not one I They sat as still as mice; and Susie 



46 LITTLE WOMEN 

cried quarts, I know she did. I didn't envy her then; for I 
felt that millions of carnelian rings wouldn't have made m$ 
happy, after that. I never, never should have got over such 
a agonizing mortification.'* And Amy went on with her work, 
in the proud consciousness of virtue, and the successful utter- 
ance of two long words in a breath. 

" I saw something that I liked this morning, and I meant 
to tell it at dinner, but I forgot," said Beth, putting Jo's topsy- 
turvy basket in order as she talked. " When I went to get 
some oysters for Hannah, Mr. Laurence was in the fish-shop; 
but he did n't see me, for I kept behind a barrel, and he was 
busy with Mr. Cutter, the fish-man. A poor woman came in, 
with a pail and a mop, and asked Mr. Cutter if he would let 
her do some scrubbing for a bit of fish, because she had n't any 
dinner for her children, and had been disappointed of a day's 
work. Mr. Cutter was in a hurry, and said ' No/ rather crossly ; 
so she was going away, looking hungry and sorry, when Mr. 
Laurence hooked up a big fish with the crooked end of his 
cane, and held it out to her. She was so glad and surprised, 
she took it right in her arms, and thanked him over and over. 
He told her to ' go along and cook it,' and she hurried off, so 
happy ! Was n't it good of him ? Oh, she did look so funny, 
hugging the big, slippery fish, and hoping Mr. Laurence's bed 
in heaven would be ' aisy.' " 

When they had laughed at Beth's story, they asked their 
mother for one; and, after a moment's thought, she said 
soberly, 

" As I sat cutting out blue flannel jackets to-day, at the rooms, 
I felt very anxious about father, and thought how lonely and 
helpless we should be, if anything happened to him. It was not 
a wise thing to do ; but I kept on worrying, till an old man came 
in, with an order for some clothes. He sat down near me, and 
I began to talk to him ; for he looked poor and tired and anxious. 

"'Have you sons in the army?' I asked; for the note he 
brought was not to me. 

" ' Yes, ma'am. I had four, but two were killed, one is a 



LITTLE WOMEN 47 

prisoner, and I 'm going to the other who is very sick in a 
Washington hospital/ he answered quietly. 

" ' You have done a great deal for your country, sir/ I said, 
feeling respect now, instead of pity. 

" ' Not a mite more than I ought, ma'am. I 'd go myself, 
if I was any use; as I ain't, I give my boys, and give 'em 
free/ 

" He spoke so cheerfully, looked so sincere, and seemed so 
glad to give his all, that I was ashamed of myself. I 'd given 
one man, and thought it too much, while he gave four, without 
grudging them. I had all my girls to comfort me at home; 
and his last son was waiting, miles away, to say ' good-by ' to 
him, perhaps ! I felt so rich, so happy, thinking of my blessings, 
that I made him a nice bundle, gave him some money, and 
thanked him heartily for the lesson he had taught me." 

" Tell another story, mother, one with a moral to it, like 
this. I like to think about them afterwards, if they are real, 
and not too preachy," said Jo, after a minute's silence. 

Mrs. March smiled, and began at once; for she had told 
stories to this little audience for many years, and knew how 
to please them. 

" Once upon a time, there were four girls, who had enough 
to eat and drink and wear, a good many comforts and pleasures, 
kind friends and parents, who loved them dearly, and yet they 
were not contented." (Here the listeners stole sly looks at one 
another, and began to sew diligently.) " These girls were 
anxious to be good, and made many excellent resolutions; but 
they did not keep them very well, and were constantly saying, 
' If we only had this/ or * If we could only do that/ quite for- 
getting how much they already had, and how many pleasant 
things they actually could do. So they asked an old woman what 
spell they could use to make them happy, and she said, ' When 
you feel discontented, think over your blessings, and be grate- 
ful.' " (Here Jo looked up quickly, as if about to speak, but 
changed her mind, seeing that the story was not done yet) 

" Being />p,ns'He girls, they decided to try her advice, and 



48 LITTLE WOMEN 

soon were surprised to see how well off they were. One dis- 
j covered that money couldn't keep shame and sorrow out ot 
rich people's houses; another that, though she was poor, she 
I was a great deal happier, with her youth, health, and good 
spirits, than a certain fretful, feeble old lady, who could n't 
"enjoy her comforts ; a third that, disagreeable as it was to help 
get dinner, it was harder still to have to go begging for it; 
and the fourth, that even carnelian rings were not so valuable 
as good behavior. So they agreed to stop complaining, to enjoy 
the blessings already possessed, and try to deserve them, lest 
they should be taken away entirely, instead of increased ; and I 
believe they were never disappointed, or sorry that they took 
the old woman's advice." 

" Now, Marmee, that is very cunning of you to turn our 
own stories against us, and give us a sermon instead of a 
romance ! " cried Meg. 

" I like that kind of sermon. It 's the sort father used to 
tell us," said Beth thoughtfully, putting the needles straight on 
Jo's cushion. 

" I don't complain near as much as the others do, and I shall 
be more careful than ever now ; for I 've had warning from 
Susie's downfall," said Amy morally. 

" We needed that lesson, and we won't forget it. If we do, 
you just say to us, as old Chloe did in ' Uncle Tom,' ' Tink 
ob yer marcies, chillen ! tink ob yer marcies ! ' " added Jo, who 
could not, for the life of her, help getting a morsel of fun out 
of the little sermon, though she took it to heart as much as any 
of them. 

CHAPTER V. 

BEING NEIGHBORLY. 

" WHAT in the world are you going to do now, Jo ? " asked 
Meg, one snowy afternoon, as her sister came tramping through 



LITTLE WOMEN 49 

the hall, in rubber boots, old sack and hood, with a broom in 
one hand and a shovel in the other. 

" Going out for exercise," answered Jo, with a mischievous 
twinkle in her eyes. 

" I should think two long walks this morning would have been 
enough ! It 's cold and dull out ; and I advise you to stay, warm 
and dry, by the fire, as I do," said Meg with a shiver. 

" Never take advice ! Can't keep still all day, and, not being 
a pussy-cat I don't like to doze by the fire. I like adventures, 
and I 'm going to find some." 

"Meg went back to toast her feet and read " Ivanhoe " ; and 
Jo began to dig paths with great energy. The snow was light, 
and with her broom she soon swept a path all round the garden, 
for Beth to walk in when the sun came out ; and the invalid dolls 
needed air. Now, the garden separated the Marches' house 
from that of Mr. Laurence. Both stood in a suburb of the 
city, which was still country-like, with groves and lawns, large 
gardens, and quiet streets. A low hedge parted the two estates. 
On one side was an old, brown house, looking rather bare and 
shabby, robbed of the vines that in summer covered its walls, 
and the flowers which then surrounded it. On the other side was 
a stately stone mansion, plainly betokening every sort of com- 
fort and luxury, from the big coach-house and well-kept grounds 
to the conservatory and the glimpses of lovely things one caught 
between the rich curtains. Yet it seemed a lonely, lifeless sort 
of house; for no children frolicked on the lawn, no motherly 
face ever smiled at the windows, and few people went in and 
out, except the old gentleman and his grandson. 

To Jo's lively fancy, this fine house seemed a kind of en- 
chanted palace, full of splendors and delights, which no ona 
enjoyed. She had long wanted to behold these hidden glories, 
and to know the " Laurence boy," who looked as if he would 
like to be known, if he only knew how to begin. Since the 
party, she had been more eager than ever, and had planned 
many ways of making friends with him ; but he had not been 
seen lately, and Jo began to think he had gone away, when she 



50 LITTLE WOMEN 

one day spied a brown face at the upper window, looking wist- 
fully down into their garden, where Beth and Amy were snow- 
balling one another. 

" That boy is suffering for society and fun," she said to 
herself. " His grandpa does not know what 's good for him, 
and keeps him shut up all alone. He needs a party of jolly 
boys to play with, or somebody young and lively. I 've a great 
mind to go over and tell the old gentleman so ! " 

The idea amused Jo, who liked to do daring things, and was 
always scandalizing Meg by her queer performances. The 
plan of " going over " was not forgotten ; and when the snowy 
afternoon came, Jo resolved to try what could be done. She 
saw Mr. Laurence drive off, and then sallied out to dig her way 
down to the hedge, where she paused, and took a survey. All 
quiet, curtains down at the lower windows ; servants out of 
sight and nothing human visible but a curly black head leaning 
on a thin hand at the upper window. 

" There he is," thought Jo, " poor boy ! all alone and sick this 
dismal day. It 's a shame ! I '11 toss up a snowball and make 
him look out, and then say a kind word to him." 

Up went a handful of soft snow, and the head turned at 
once, showing a face which lost its listless look in a minute, as 
the big eyes brightened and the mouth began to smile. Jo 
nodded and laughed, and flourished her broom as she called 
out, 

" How do you do ? Are you sick ? " 

Laurie opened the window, and croaked out as hoaxsely a? 
a raven, 

" Better, thank you. I Ve had a bad cold, and been shut uu 
a week." 

" I 'm sorry. What do you amuse yourself with ? " 

" Nothing ; it ^s as dull as tombs up here." 

"Don't you read?" 

" Not much ; they won't let me." 

" Can't somebody read to you ? " 



LITTLE WOMEN 51 

" Grandpa does, sometimes ; but my books don't interest him, 
and I hate to ask Brooke all the time." 

" Have some one come and see you then." 

" There is n't any one I'd like to see. Boys make such a 
row, and my head is weak." 

" Is n't there some nice girl who 'd read and amuse you ? 
Girls are quiet, and like to play nurse." 

" Don't know any." 

" You know us," began Jo, then laughed, and stopped. 

" So I do ! Will you come, please ? " cried Laurie. 

" I 'm not quiet and nice ; but I '11 come, if mother will let 
me. I '11 go ask her. Shut that window, like a good boy, 
and wait till I come." 

With that, Jo shouldered her broom and marched into the 
house, wondering what they would all say to her. Laurie 
was in a flutter of excitement at the idea of having company, 
and flew about to get ready; for, as Mrs. March said, he was 
" a little gentleman," and did honor to the coming guest by 
brushing his curly pate, putting on a fresh collar, and trying to 
tidy up the room, which, in spite of half a dozen servants, was 
anything but neat. Presently there came a loud ring, then a 
decided voice, asking for " Mr. Laurie," and a surprised-looking 
servant came running up to announce a young lady. 

" All right, show her up, it 's Miss Jo," said Laurie, going 
to the door of his little parlor to meet Jo, who appeared, looking 
rosy and kind and quite at her ease, with a covered dish in 
one hand and Beth's three kittens in the other. 

" Here I am, bag and baggage," she said briskly. " Mother 
sent her love, and was glad if I could do anything for you. 
Meg wanted me to bring some of her blanc-mange ; she makes 
it very nicely, and Beth thought her cats would be comforting. 
I knew you 'd laugh at them, but I could n't refuse, she was 
so anxious to do something." 

It so happened that Beth's funny loan was just the thing; 
for, in laughing over the kits, Laurie forgot his bashfulness, 
and grew sociable at once. 



52 LITTLE WOMEN 

" That looks too pretty to eat," he said, smiling with pleasure, 
as Jo uncovered the dish, and showed the blanc-mange, sur- 
rounded by a garland of green leaves, and the scarlet flowers of 
Amy's pet geranium. 

" It Is n't anything, only they all felt kindly, and wanted 
to show it. Tell the girl to put it away for your tea : it 's 
so simple, you can eat it; and, being soft, it will slip down 
without hurting your sore throat. What a cosey room this 
is!" 

" It might be if it was kept nice ; but the maids are lazy, 
and I don't know how to make them mind. It worries me, 
though. " 

" I '11 right it up in two minutes ; for it only needs to 
have the hearth brushed, so, and the things made straight 
on the mantel-piece, so, and the books put here, and the 
bottles there, and your sofa turned from the light, and the 
pillows plumped up a bit. Now, then, you 're fixed. " 

And so he was; for, as she laughed and talked, Jo had 
whisked things into place, and given quite a different air 
to the room. Laurie watched her in respectful silence and 
when she beckoned him to his sofa, he sat down with a sigh 
of satisfaction, saying gratefully, 

" How kind you are ! Yes, that's what it wanted. Now 
please take the big chair, and let me do something to amuse 
my company." 

" No ; I came to amuse you. Shall I read aloud ?" and 
Jo looked affectionately toward some inviting books near by. 

" Thank you ; I Ve read all those, and if you don't mind, 
I 'd rather talk, " answered Laurie. 

"Not a bit; I'll talk all day if you'll only set me going. 
Beth says I never know when to stop." 

" Is Beth the rosy one, who stays at home a good deal, and 
sometimes goes out with a little basket?" asked Laurie, with 
interest. 

" Yes, that 's Beth ; she 's my girl, and a regular good one 
she is, too." 



LITTLE WOMEN 53 

"The pretty one is Meg, and the curly-haired one is Amy, 
I believe?" 

" How did you find that out ? " 

Laurie colored up, but answered frankly, " Why, you see, 
I often hear you calling to one another, and when I 'm alone 
up here, I can't help looking over at your house, you always 
seem to be having such good times. I beg your pardon for 
being so rude, but sometimes you forget to put down the curtain 
at the window where the flowers are ; and when the lamps are 
lighted, it 's like looking at a picture to see the fire, and you 
all round the table with your mother ; her face is right opposite, 
and it looks so sweet behind the flowers, I can't help watching 
it. I have n't got any mother, you know ;" and Laurie poked 
the fire to hide a little twitching of the lips that he could not 
control. 

The solitary, hungry look in his eyes went straight to Jo's 
warm heart. She had been so simply taught that there was 
no nonsense inlierTiead, and at fifteen she was as innocent and 
frank as any child. Laurie was sick and lonely; and, feeling 
how rich she was in home-love and happiness, she gladly tried 
to share it with him. Her face was very friendly and her sharp 
voice unusually gentle as she said, 

" We '11 never draw that curtain any more, and I give you 
leave to look as much as you like. I just wish, though, instead 
of peeping, you 'd come over and see us. Mother is so splendid, 
she'd do you heaps of good, and Beth would sing to you if 
7 begged her to, and Amy would dance; Meg and I would 
make you laugh over our funny stage properties, and we'd 
have jolly times. Would n't your grandpa let you? " 

" I think he would, if your mother asked him. He 's very 
kind, though he does not look so; and he lets me do what I 
like, pretty much, only he 's afraid I might be a bother to 
strangers," began Laurie, brightening more and more. 

" We are not strangers, we are neighbors, and you need n't 
think you 5 d be a bother. We want to know you, and I 've been 
trying to do it this ever so long. We have n't been here a great 



54 LITTLE WOMEN 

while, you know, but we have got acquainted with all our 
neighbors but you." 

" You see grandpa lives among his books, and does n't mind 
much what happens outside. Mr. Brooke, my tutor, does n't 
stay here, you know, and I have no one to go about with me, 
so I just stop at home and get on as I can." 

" That's bad. You ought to make an effort, and go visiting 
everywhere you are asked ; then you 'II have plenty of friends, 
and pleasant places to go to. Never mind being bashful; it 
won't last long if you keep going." 

Laurie turned red again, but was n't offended at being accused 
of bashfulness ; for there was so much good-will in Jo, it was 
impossible not to take her blunt speeches as kindly as they were 
meant, - 

"""Do you like your school?" asked the boy, changing the 
subject, after a little pause, during which he stared at the fire, 
and Jo looked about her, well pleased. 

" Don't go to school ; I 'm a business man girl, I mean. 
I go to wait on my great-aunt, and a dear, cross old soul she 
is, too," answered Jo. 

Laurie opened his mouth to ask another question ; but re- 
membering just in time that it was n't manners to make too 
many inquiries into people's affairs, he shut it again, and looked 
uncomfortable. Jo liked his good breeding, and didn't mind 
having a laugh at Aunt March, so she gave him a lively descrip- 
tion of the fidgety old lady, her fat poodle, the parrot that talked 
Spanish, and the library where she revelled. Laurie enjoyed 
that immensely; and when she told about the prim old gentle- 
man who came once to woo Aunt March, and, in the middle of 
a fine speech, how Poll had tweaked his wig off to his great 
dismay, the boy lay back and laughed till the tears ran down his 
cheeks, and a maid popped her head in to see what was the 
matter. 

" Oh ! that does me no end of good. Tell on, please," he 
said, taking his face out of the sofa-cushion, red and shining 
with merriment. 



LITTLE WOMEN 55 

Much elated with her success, Jo did " tell on," all about their 
plays and plans, their hopes and fears for father, and the most 
interesting events of the little world in which the sisters lived. 
Then they got to talking about books ; and to Jo's delight, she 
found that Laurie loved them as well as she did, and had read 
even more than herself. 

"If you like them so much, come down and see ours. 
Grandpa is out, so you need n't be afraid," said Laurie, getting 
up. 

" I 'm not afraid of anything," returned Jo, with a toss of 
the head. 

" I don't believe you are !" exclaimed the boy, looking at her 
with much admiration, though he privately thought she would 
have good reason to be a trifle afraid of the old gentleman, if 
she met him in some of his moods. 

The atmosphere of the whole house being summer-like, Laurie 
led the way from room to room, letting Jo stop to examine 
whatever struck her fancy; and so at last they came to the 
library, where she clapped her hands, and pranced, as she always 
did when especially delighted. It was lined with books, and 
there were pictures and statues, and distracting little cabinets 
full of coins and curiosities, and sleepy-hollow chairs, and queer 
tables, and bronzes ; and, best of all, a great open fireplace, with 
quaint tiles all round it. 

" What richness !" sighed Jo, sinking into the depth of a 
velvet chair, and gazing about her with an air of intense satis- 
faction. " Theodore Laurence, you ought to be the happiest 
boy in the world," she added impressively. 

" A fellow can't live on books," said Laurie, shaking his head, 
as he perched on a table opposite. 

Before he could say more, a bell rung, and Jo flew up, 
exclaiming with alarm, " Mercy me ! it's your grandpa !" 

"Well, what if it is? You are not afraid of anything, you 
Know," returned the boy, looking wicked. 

" I think I am a little bit afraid of him, but I don't know 
why I should be Marmee said I might come, and I don't think 



56 LITTLE WOMEN 

you 're any the worse for it," said Jo, composing herself, though 
she kept her eyes on the door. 

" I 'm a great deal better for it, and ever so much obliged. 
I 'm only afraid you are very tired talking to me ; it was so 
pleasant, I could n't bear to stop," said Laurie gratefully. 

" The doctor to see you, sir," and the maid beckoned as she 
spoke. 

" Would you mind if I left you for a minute ? I suppose 
I must see him," said Laurie. 

" Don't mind me. I 'm as happy as a cricket here," answered 
Jo. 

Laurie went away, and his guest amused herself in her own 
way. She was standing before a fine portrait of the old gentle- 
man, when the door opened again, and, without turning, she 
said decidedly, " I 'm sure now that I should n't be afraid of 
him, for he 's got kind eyes, though his mouth is grim, and he 
looks as if he had a tremendous will of his own. He is n't as 
handsome as my grandfather, but I like him." 

" Thank you, ma'am," said a gruff voice behind her ; and 
there, to her great dismay, stood old Mr. Laurence. 

Poor Jo blushed till she could n't blush any redder, and her 
heart began to beat uncomfortably fast as she thought what she 
had said. For a minute a wild desire to run away possessed 
her; but that was cowardly, and the girls would laugh at her: 
so she resolved to stay, and get out of the scrape as she could. 
A second look showed her that the living eyes, under the bushy 
gray eyebrows, were kinder even than the painted ones; and 
there was a sly twinkle in them, which lessened her fear a good 
deal. The gruff voice was gruffer than ever, as the old gentle- 
man said abruptly, after that dreadful pause, " So you 're not 
afraid of me, hey?" 

" Not much, sir." 

" And you don't think me as handsome as your grand- 
father?" " 

" Not quite, sir." 

" And I 've got a tremendous will, have I ? " 



LITTLE WOMEK 57 

" J only said I thought so." 

" But you like me, in spite of it ? " 

" Yes, I do, sir." 

That answer pleased the old gentleman; he gave a short 
laugh, shook hands with her, and, putting his finger under her 
chin, turned up her face, examined it gravely, and let it go, say- 
ing, with a nod, " You 've got your grandfather's spirit, if you 
haven't his face. He was a fine man, my dear; but, what is 
better, he was a brave and an honest one, and I was proud to be 
his friend." 

" Thank you, sir ;" and Jo was quite comfortable after that, 
for it suited her exactly. 

" What have you been doing to this boy of mine, hey?" was 
the next question, sharply put. 

" Only trying to be neighborly, sir ;" and Jo told how her 
visit came about. 

" You think he needs cheering up a bit, do you ? " 

" Yes, sir ; he seems a little lonely, and young folks would do 
him good perhaps. We are only girls, but we should be glad 
to help if we could, for we don't forget the splendid Christmas 
present you sent us," said Jo eagerly. 

" Tut, tut, tut ! that was the boy's affair. How is the poor 
woman?" 

" Doing nicely, sir ; " and off went Jo, talking very fast, as 
she told all about the Hummels, in whom her mother had 
interested richer friends than they were. 

" Just her father's way of doing good. I shall come and see 
your mother some fine day. Tell her so. There 's the tea-bell ; 
we have it early, on the boy's account. Come down, and go on 
being neighborly." 

"If you 'd like to have me, sir." 

" Should n't ask you, if I did n't;" and Mr. Laurence offered 
her his arm with old-fashioned courtesy. 

"What would Meg say to this?" thought Jo, as she was 
marched away, while her eyes danced with fun as she imagined 
herself telling the story at home. 



58 LITTLE WOMEN 

"Hey! Why, what the dickens has come to the fellow?" 
said the old gentleman, as Laurie came running downstairs, 
and brought up with a start of surprise at the astonishing sight 
of Jo arm-in-arm with his redoubtable grandfather. 

" I did n't know you 'd come, sir," he began, as Jo gave him 
a triumphant little glance. 

" That's evident, by the way you racket downstairs. Come to 
your tea, sir, and behave like a gentleman;" and having pulled 
the boy's hair by way of a caress, Mr. Laurence walked on, 
while Laurie went through a series of comic evolutions behind 
their backs, which nearly produced an explosion of laughter 
from Jo. 

The old gentleman did not say much as he drank his four cups 
of tea, but he watched the young people, who soon chatted away 
like old friends, and the change in his grandson did not escape 
him. There was color, light, and life in the boy's face now, 
vivacity in his manner, and genuine merriment in his laugh. 

" She 's right ; the lad is lonely. I '11 see what these little 
girls can do for him," thought Mr. Laurence, as he looked and 
listened. He liked Jo, fo'r her odd, blunt ways suited him ; and 
she seemed to understand the boy almost as well as if she had 
been one herself. 

If the Laurences had been what Jo called " prim and poky," 
she would not have got on at all, for such people always made 
her shy and awkward ; but finding them free and easy, she was 
so herself, and made a good impression. When they rose she 
proposed to go, but Laurie said he had something more to show 
her, and took her away to the conservatory, which had been 
lighted for her benefit. It seemed quite fairylike to Jo, as she 
went up and down the walks, enjoying the blooming walls on 
either side, the soft light, the damp sweet air, and the wonderful 
vines and trees that hung above her, while her new friend cut 
the finest flowers till his hands were full ; then he tied them up, 
saying, with the happy look Jo liked to see, " Please give these 
to your mother, and tell her I like the medicine she sent me very 
much." 






LITTLE WOMEN 59 

They found Mr. Laurence standing before the fire in the great 
drawing-room, but Jo's attention was entirely absorbed by a 
grand piano, which stood open. 

" Do you play ? " she asked, turning to Laurie with a respect- 
ful expression. 

" Sometimes," he answered modestly. 

" Please do now. I want to hear it, so I can tell Beth." 

"Won't you first?" 

" Don't know how ; too stupid to learn, but I love music 
dearly." 

So Laurie played, an d Jo listened, with her nose luxuriously 
buried in(heliotrope/and tea-roses. Her respect and regard for 
the " Laurence^Boy " increased very much, for he played re- 
markably well, and did n't put on any airs. She wished Beth 
could hear him, but she did not say so ; only praised him till he 
was quite abashed, and his grandfather came to the rescue. 
" That will do, that will do, young lady. Too many sugar-plums 
are not good for him. His music is n't bad, but I hope he will 
do as well in more important things. Going ? Well, I 'm much 
obliged to you, and I hope you '11 come again. My respects to 
your mother. Good-night, Doctor Jo." 

He shook hands kindly, but looked as if something did not 
please him. When they got into the hall, Jo asked Laurie if 
she had said anything amiss. He shook his head. 

" No, it was me ; he does n't like to hear me play." 

"Why not?" 

" I '11 tell you some day. John is going home with you, as 
I can't." 

" No need of that ; I am not a young lady, and it 's only a 
step. Take care of yourself, won't you ? " 

" Yes ; but you will come again, I hope ? " 

" If you promise to come and see us after you are well." 

" I will." 

" Good-night, Laurie ! " 

*' Good-night, Jo, good-night ! " 

When all the afternoon's adventures had been told, the family 



6o LITTLE WOMEN 

felt inclined to go visiting in a body, for each found something 
very attractive in the big house on the other side of the hedge. 
Mrs. March wanted to talk of her father with the old man who 
had not forgotten him; Meg longed to walk in the conserva- 
tory ; Beth sighed for the grand piano ; and Amy was eager to 
see the fine pictures and statues. 

" Mother, why did n't Mr. Laurence like to have Laurie 
play ? " asked Jo, who was of an inquiring disposition. 

" I am not sure, but I think it was because his son, Laurie's 
father, married an Italian lady, a musician, which displeased the 
old man, who is very proud. The lady was good and lovely and 
accomplished, but he did not like her, and never saw his son 
after he married. They both died when Laurie was a little 
child, and then his grandfather took him home. I fancy the 
boy, who was born in Italy, is not very strong, and the old man 
is afraid of losing him, which makes him so careful. Laurie 
comes naturally by his love of music, for he is like his mother, 
and I dare say his grandfather fears that he may want to be a 
musician; at any rate, his skill reminds him of the woman he 
did not like, and so he ' glowered,' as Jo said." 

" Dear me, how romantic ! " exclaimed Meg. 

" How silly ! " said Jo. " Let him be a musician, if he wants 
to, and not Blague his life out sending him to college, when he 
hates to go." 

" That 's why he has such handsome black eyes and pretty 
manners, I suppose. Italians are always nice," said Meg, who 
was a little sentimental. 

" What do you know about his eyes and his manners ? You 
never spoke to him, hardly," cried Jo, who was not sentimental. 

" I saw him at the party, and what you tell shows that he 
knows how to behave. That was a nice little speech about the 
medicine mother sent him." 

" He meant the blanc-mange, I suppose." 

" How stupid you are, child ! He meant you, of course." 

" Did he ? " and Jo opened her eyes as if it had never 
occurred to her before. 



C1TTLE WOMEN 6l 

" I never saw such a girl ! You don't know a compliment 
when you g"et it," said Meg, with the air of a young lady who 
knew all about the matter. 

" I think they are great nonsense, and I '11 thank you not to 
be silly, and spoil my fun. Laurie 's a nice boy, and I like him, 
and I won't have any sentimental stuff about compliments and 
such rubbish. We '11 all be good to him, because he has n't got 
any mother, and he may come over and see us, mayn't he 
Marmee ? " 

" Yes, Jo, your little friend is very welcome, and I hope Meg 
will remember that children should be children as long as they 
can." 

" I don't call myself a child, and I 'm not in my teens yet/' 
observed Amy. " What do you say, Beth ? " 

" I was thinking about our ' Pilgrim's Progress,' " answered 
Beth, who had not heard a word. " How we got out of the 
Slough and through the Wicket Gate by resolving to be good, 
and up the steep hill by trying ; and that may be the house over 
there, full of splendid things, is going to be our Palace 
Beautiful." 

" We have got to get by the lions, first," said Jo, as if she 
rather liked the prospect. 



CHAPTER VI. 

BETH FINDS THE PALACE BEAUTIFUL. 

THE big house did prove a Palace Beautiful, though it took 
some time for all to get in, and Beth found it very hard to pass 
the lions. Old Mr. Laurence was the biggest one; but after 
he had called, said something funny or kind to each one of the 
girls, and talked over old times with their mother, nobody felt 
much afraid of him, except timid Beth. The other lion was the 
fact that they were poor and Laurie rich ; for this made them 
shy of accepting favors which they could not return. But after 



62 LITTLE WOMEN 

a while, they found that he considered them the benefactors, 
and could not do enough to show how grateful he was for Mrs. 
March's motherly welcome, their cheerful society, and the com- 
fort he took in that humble home of theirs. So they soon forgot 
their pride, and interchanged kindnesses without stopping to 
think which was the greater. 

All sorts of pleasant things happened about that time ; for 
the new friendship flourished like grass in spring. Every one 
liked Laurie, and he privately informed his tutor that " the 
Marches were regularly splendid girls." With the delightful 
enthusiasm of youth, they took the solitary boy into their midst, 
and made much of him, and he found something very charming 
in the innocent companionship of these simple-hearted girls. 
Never having known mother or sisters, he was quick to feel the 
influences they brought about him ; and their busy, lively ways 
made him ashamed of the indolent life he led. He was tired of 
books, and found people so interesting now that Mr. Brooke 
was obliged to make very unsatisfactory reports ; for Laurie 
was always playing truant, and running over to the Marches'. 

" Never mind ; let him take a holiday, and make it up after- 
wards/' said the old gentleman. " The good lady next door 
says he is studying too hard, and needs young society, amuse- 
ment, and exercise. I suspect she is right, and that I Ve been 
coddling the fellow as if I 'd been his grandmother. Let him do 
what he likes, as long as he is happy. He can't get into mischief 
in that little nunnery over there ; and Mrs. March is doing more 
for him than we can." 

What good times they had, to be sure! Such plays and 
tableaux, such sleigh-rides and skating frolics, such pleasant 
evenings in the old parlor, and now and then such gay little 
narties at the great house. Meg could walk in the conservatory 
whenever she liked, and revel in bouquets ; Jo browsed over the 
new library voraciously, and convulsed the old gentleman with 
her criticisms; Amy copied pictures, and enjoyed beauty to her 
heart's content ; and Laurie played " lord of the manor " in the 
most delightful style. 



LITTLE WOMEN 63 

BiU Beth, though yearning for the grand piano, could not 
piuck up courage to go to the " Mansion of Bliss," as Me** 
called it. She went once with Jo; but the old gentleman, not 
being aware of her infirmity, stared at her so hard from under 
his heavy eyebrows, and said " Hey ! " so loud, that te 
frightened her so much her " feet chattered on the floor," sh? 
told her mother ; and she ran away, declaring she would never 
go there any more, not even for the dear piano. No persuasions 
or enticements could overcome her fear, till, the fact coming to 
Mr. Laurence's ear in some mysterious way, he set about mend- 
ing matters. During one of the brief calls he made, he artfully 
led the conversation to music, and talked away about great 
singers whom he had seen, fine organs he had heard, and told 
such charming anecdotes that Beth found it impossible to stay 
in her distant corner, but crept nearer and nearer, as if fas- 
cinated. At the back of his chair she stopped, and stood listen- 
ing, with her great eyes wide open, and her cheeks red with the 
excitement of this unusual performance. Taking no more 
notice of her than if she had been a fly, Mr. Laurence talked 
on about Laurie's lessons and teachers ; and presently, as if the 
idea had just occurred to him, he said to Mrs. March, 

" The boy neglects his music now, and I 'm glad of it, for he 
was getting too fond of it. But the piano suffers for want of 
use. Would n't some of your girls like to run over, and practice 
on it now and then, just to keep it in tune, you know, ma'am? " 

Beth took a step forward, and pressed her hands tightly 
together to keep from clapping them, for this was an irresistible 
temptation; and the thought of practising on that splendid 
instrument quite took her breath away. Before Mrs. March 
could reply, Mr. Laurence went on with an odd little nod and 
smile, 

" They need n't see or speak to any one, but run in at any 
time ; for 1 *m shut up in my study at the other end of the 
house, Laurie is out a great deal, and the servants are never 
near the drawing-room after nine o'clock." 



5* LITTLE WOMEN 

Here he rose, as if going, and Beth made up her mind ta 
speak, for that last arrangement left nothing to be desired. 
" Please tell the young ladies what I say ; and if they don't cars 
to come, why, never mind." Here a little hand slipped into his, 
and Beth looked up at him with a face full of gratitude, as she 
said, in her earnest yet timid way, 

" O sir, they do care, very, very much ! " 

" Are you the musical girl ? " he asked, without any startling 
" Hey ! " as he looked down at her kindly. 

" I 'm Beth. I love it dearly, and I '11 come, if you are quite 
sure nobdy will hear me and be disturbed," she added, fear- 
ing to be rude, and trembling at her own boldness as she spoke. 

" Not a soul, my dear. The house is empty half the day ; so 
come, and drum away as much as you like, and I shall be obliged 
to you." 

" How kind you are, sir ! " 

Beth blushed like a rose under the friendly look he wore ; but 
she was not frightened now, and gave the big hand a grateful 
squeeze, because she had no words to thank him for the precious 
gift he had given her. The old gentleman softly stroked the 
hair off her forehead, and, stooping down, he kissed her, saying, 
in a tone few people ever heard, 

" I had a little girl once, with eyes like these. God bless you, 
my dear ! Good day, madam ; " and away he went, in a great 
hurry. 

Beth had a rapture with her mother, and then rushed up to 
impart the glorious news to her family of invalids, as the girls 
were not at home. How blithely she sung that evening, and how 
they all laughed at her, because she woke Amy in the night by 
playing the piano on her face in her sleep. Next day, having seen 
both the old and young gentleman out of the house, Beth, after 
two or three retreats, fairly got in at the side-door, and made her 
way, as noiselessly as any mouse, to the drawing-room, where 
her idol stood. Quite by accident, of course, some pretty, easy 
music lay on the piano; and, with trembling fingers, and 
frequent stops to listen and look about, Beth at last touched the 



LITTLE WOMEN 65 

great instrument, and straightway forgot her fear, herself, and 
everything else but the unspeakable delight which the music gave 
her, for it was like the voice of a beloved friend. 

She stayed till Hannah came to take her home to dinner ; but 
she had no appetite, and could only sit and smile upon every 
one in a general state of beatitude. 

After that, the little brown hood slipped through the hedge 
nearly every day, and the great drawing-room was haunted by 
a tuneful spirit that came and went unseen. She never knew 
that Mr. Laurence often opened his study-door to hear the old- 
fashioned airs he liked; she never saw Laurie mount guard in 
the hall to warn the servants away; she never suspected that 
the exercise-books and new songs which she found in the rack 
were put there for her especial benefit; and when he talked to 
her about music at home, she only thought how kind he was to 
tell things that helped her so much. So she enjoyed herself 
heartily, and found, what is n't always the case, that her granted 
wish was ail she had hoped. Perhaps it was because she was 
so grateful for this blessing that a greater was given her; at 
any rate, she deserved both. 

" Mother, I 'm going to work Mr. Laurence a pair of slippers. 
He is so kind to me, I must thank him, and I don't know any 
other way. Can I do it ? " asked Beth, a few weeks after that 
eventful call of his. 

" Yes, dear. It will please him very much, and be a nice 
way of thanking him. The girls will help you about them, and 
I will pay for the making up," replied Mrs. March, who took 
peculiar pleasure in granting Beth's requests, because she so 
seldom asked anything for herself. 

After many serious discussions with Meg and Jo, the pattern 
was chosen, the materials bought, and the slippers begun. A 
cluster of grave yet cheerful pansies, on a deeper purple ground, 
was pronounced very appropriate and pretty ; and Beth worked 
away early and late, with occasional lifts over hard parts. She 
fras a nimble little needle-woman, and they were finished before 
any one got tired of them. Then she wrote a very short, simple 



66 LITTLE WOMEN 

note, and, with Laurie's help, got them smuggled on to the 
study-table one morning before the old gentleman was up. 

When this excitement was over, Beth waited to see what 
would happen. All that day passed, and a part of the next, 
before any acknowledgemenJ^-syxiKed, and she was beginning 
to fear she had offended her(crotcriet^ friend. On the afternoon 
of the second day, she went out to do an errand, and give poor 
Joanna, the invalid doll, her daily exercise. As she came up the 
street, on her return, she saw three, yes, four, heads popping 
in and out of the parlor windows, and the moment they saw 
her, several hands were waved, and several joyful voices 
screamed, 

" Here 's a letter from the old gentleman ! Come quick, and 
read it!" 

" O Beth, he 's sent you " began Amy, gesticulating with 
unseemly energy; but she got no further, for Jo quenched her 
by slamming down the window. 

Beth hurried on in a flutter of suspense. At the door, her 
sisters seized and bore her to the parlor in a triumphal proces- 
sion, all pointing, and all saying at once, " Look there ! look 
there ! " Beth did look, and turned pale with delight and sur- 
prise; for there stood a little cabinet-piano, with a letter lying 
on the glossy lid, directed, like a sign-board, to " Miss Elizabeth 
March." 

" For me? " gasped Beth, holding on to Jo, and feeling as if 
she should tumble down, it was such an overwhelming thing 
altogether. 

" Yes ; all for you, my precious ! Is n't it splendid of him ? 
Don't you think he 's the dearest old man in the world ? Here 's 
the key in the letter. We did n't open it, but we are dying to 
know what he says," cried Jo, hugging her sister, and offering 
the note. 

"You read it! I can't, I feel so queer! Oh, it is too 
lovely I " and Beth hid her face in Jo's apron, quite upset by 
her present. 




m 



The great drawing-room was haunted by a tuneful spirit 
that came and went unseen. Page 65. 



LITTLE WOMEN 67 

Jo opened the paper, and began to laugh, for the first words 
she saw were, 

''Miss MARCH : 

"Dear Madam, " 

" How nice it sounds ! I wish some one would write to me 
so ! " said Amy, who thought the old-fashioned address very 
elegant. 

" ' I have had many pairs of slippers in my life, but I never 
had any that suited me so well as yours/ " continued Jo. 
" ' Heart's-ease is my favorite flower, and these will always 
remind me of the gentle giver. I like to pay my debts; so I 
know you will allow " the old gentleman " to send you some- 
thing which once belonged to the little granddaughter he lost. 
With hearty thanks and best wishes, I remain 
" ' Your grateful friend and humble servant, 

" 'JAMES LAURENCE.' " 

" There, Beth, that 's an honor to be proud of, I 'm sure ! 
Laurie told me how fond Mr. Laurence used to be of the child 
who died, and how he kept all her little things carefully. Just 
think, he 's given you her piano. That comes of having big 
blue eyes and loving music," said Jo, trying to soothe Beth, who 
trembled, and looked more excited than she had ever been 
before. 

" See the cunning brackets to hold candles, and the nice green 
silk, puckered up, with a gold rose in the middle, and the pretty 
rack and stool, all complete," added Meg, opening the instru- 
ment and displaying its beauties. 

" ' Your humble servant, James Laurence ' ; only think of his 
writing that to you. I '11 tell the girls. They '11 think it 's 
splendid," said Amy, much impressed by the note. 

" Try it, horey. Let 's hear the sound of the baby-pianny," 
said Hannah, who always took a share in the family joys and 
sorrows. 

So Beth tr'ed it; and every one pronounced it the most 
remarkable piano ever heard. It had evidently been newly tuned 



68 LITTI WOMEN 

and put in apple-pie order ; but, perfect as it was, I think thfr 
real charm of it lay in the happiest of all happy faces which 
leaned over it, as Beth lovingly touched the beautiful black and 
white keys and pressed the bright pedals. 

" You '11 have to go and thank him," said Jo, by way of a 
joke ; for the idea of the child's really going never entered her 
head. 

" Yes, I mean to. I guess I '11 go now, before I get frightened 
thinking about it." And, to the utter amazement of the 
assembled family, Beth walked deliberately down the garden, 
through the hedge, and in at the Laurences' door. 

" Well, I wish I may die if it ain 't the queerest thing I ever 
see ! The pianny has turned her head ! She 'd never have 
gone in her right mind," cried Hannah, staring after her, while 
the girls were rendered quite speechless by the miracle. 

They would have been still more amazed if they had seen what 
Beth did afterward. If you will believe me, she went and 
knocked at the study-door before she gave herself time to 
think ; and when a gruff voice called out, " Come in ! " she did 
go in, right up to Mr. Laurence, who looked quite taken aback, 
and held out her hand, saying, with only a small quaver in her 
voice, " I came to thank you, sir, for " But she did n't 
finish; for he looked so friendly that she forgot her speech, 
and, only remembering that he had lost the little girl he loved, 
she put both arms round his neck, and kissed him. 

If the roof of the house had suddenly flown off, the old 
gentleman wouldn't have been more astonished; but he liked 
it, oh, dear, yes, he liked it amazingly ! and was so touched 
and pleased by that confiding little kiss that all his crustiness 
vanished ; and he just set her on his knee, and laid his wrinkled 
cheek against her rosy one, feeling as if he had got his own 
little granddaughter back again. Beth ceased to fear nim from 
that moment, and sat there talking to him as cosily as if she 
had known him all her life ; for loy^ ^^g^ut^fear, and grati- 
tude^uiconquer pride. When she went home, he walled with 



LITTLE WOMEN 69 

her to her own gate, shook hands cordially, and touched his hat 
as he marched back again, looking very stately and erect, like a 
handsome, soldierly old gentleman, as he was. 

When the girls saw that performance, Jo began to dance a 
jig, by way of yprcss<"ft fay flftti.tfart;jnn ; Amy nearly fell out 
of the window in her surprise; and Meg exclaimed, with up- 
lifted hands, " Well, I do believe the world is coming to an 
end!" 



CHAPTER VII. 

AMY'S VALLEY OF HUMILIATION. 

" THAT boy is a perfect Cyclops, is n't he ? " said Amy, one 
day, as Laurie clattered by on horseback, with a flourish of his 
whip as he passed. 

" How dare you say so, when he 's got both his eyes ? and 
very handsome ones they are, too," cried Jo, who resented any 
slighting remarks about her friend. 

" I did n't say anything about his eyes, and I don't see why 
you need fire up when I admire his riding." 

" Oh, my goodness ! that little goose means a centaur, and 
she called him a Cyclops," exclaimed Jo, with a burst of 
laughter. 

" You need n't be so rude ; it 's only a ' lapse of lingy,' as 
Mr. Davis says," retorted Amy, finishing Jo with her Latin. 
" I just wish I had a little of the money Laurie spends on that 
horse," she added, as if to herself, yet hoping her sisters would 
hear. 

"Why?" asked Meg kindly, for Jo had gone off in another 
laugh at Amy's second blunder. 

" I need it so much ; I 'm dreadfully in debt, and it won't be 
my turn to have the rag-money for a month." 

"In debt, Amy? What do you mean?" and Meg looked 
sober. 

" Why, I owe at least a dozen pickled limes, and I can't pay 



7d LITTLE WOMEN 

them, you know, till I have money, for Marmee forbade my 
having anything charged at the shop." 

" Tell me all about it. Are limes the fashion now ? It used 
to be pricking bits of rubber to make balls ; " and Meg tried 
to keep her countenance, Amy looked so grave and important. 

" Why, you see, the girls are always buying them, and unless 
you want to be thought mean, you must do it, too. It 's nothing 
but limes now, for every one is sucking them in their desks in 
school-time, and trading them off for pencils, bead-rings, paper 
dolls, or something else, at recess. If one girl likes another, she 
gives her a lime; if she 's mad with her, she eats one before her 
face, and don't offer even a suck. They treat by turns; and 
I 've had ever so many, but have n't returned then ; and I ought, 
for they are debts of honor, you know." 

" How much will pay them off, and restore your credit ? " 
asked Meg, taking out her purse. 

" A quarter would more than do it, and leave a few cents 
over for a treat for you. Don't you like limes ? " 

" Not much ; you may have my share. Here's the money. 
Make it last as long as you can, for it is n't very plenty, you 
know." 

" Oh thank you ! It must be so nice to have pocket-money ! 
I '11 have a grand feast, for I have n't tasted a lime this week. 
I felt delicate about taking any, as I could n't return them, and 
\ 'm actually suffering for one." 

Next day Amy was rather late at school ; but could not resist 
the temptation of displaying, with pardonable pride, a moist 
brown-paper parcel, before she consigned it to the inmost 
recesses of her desk. During the next few minutes the rumor 
that Amy March had got twenty-four delicious limes (she ate 
one on the way), and was going to treat, circulated through her 
" set," and the attentions of her friends became quite over- 
whelming. Katy Brown invited her to her next party on the 
spot; Mary Kingsley insisted on lending her her watch till 
recess ; and Jenny Snow, a satirical young lady, who had basely 
twitted Amy upon her limeless state, promptly bured ths 



KITTLE WOMEN 71 

hatchet, and offered to furnish answers to certain appalling 
sums. But Amy had not forgotten Miss Snow's cutting remarks 
about " some persons whose noses were not too flat to smell 
other people's limes, and stuck-up people, who were not too 
proud to ask for them ; " and she instantly crushed " that Snow 
girl's " hopes by the withering telegram, " You needn't be so 
polite all of a sudden, for you won't get any." 

A distinguished personage happened to visit the school that 
morning, and Amy's beautiful drawn maps received praise, 
which honor to her foe rankled in the soul of Miss Snow, and 
caused Miss March to assume the airs of a studious young 
peacock. But, alas, alas ! pride goes before a fall, and the 
revengeful Snow turned the tables with disastrous success. No 
sooner had the guest paid the usual stale compliments, and 
bowed himself out, than Jenny, under pretence of asking an 
important question, informed Mr. Davis, the teacher, that Amy 
March had pickled limes in her desk. 

Now Mr. Davis had declarecLlimes a contraband article, and 
solemnly vowed to publicly ferrule^the first person who was 
found breaking the law. This much-enduring man had suc- 
ceeded in banishing chewing-gum after a long and stormy war, 
had made a bonfire of the confiscated novels and newspapers, 
had suppressed a private post-office, had forbidden distortions 
of the face, nicknames, and caricatures, and done all that one 
man could do to keep half a hundred rebellious girls in order. 
Boys are trying enough to human patience, goodness knows! 
but girls are infinitely more so, especially to nervous gentlemen, 
with tyrannical tempers, and no more talent for teaching than 
Dr. Blimber. Mr. Davis knew any quantity of Greek, Latin, 
Algebra, and ologies of all sorts, so he was called a fine teacher; 
and manners, morals, feelings, and examples were not con- 
sidered of any particular importance. It was a most unfortunate 
moment for denouncing Amy, and Jenny knew it. Mr. Davis 
had evidently taken his coffee too strong that morning; there 
was an east wind, which always affected his neuralgia ; and his 
pupils had not done him the credit which he felt, he deserved : 



72 LITTLE WOMEN 

therefore, to use the expressive, if not elegant, language of a 
school-girl, " he was as nervous as a witch and as cross as a 
bear." The word " limes " was like fire to powder ; his yellow 
face flushed, and he rapped on his desk with an energy which 
made Jenny skip to her seat with unusual rapidity. 

" Young ladies, attention, if you please ! " 

At the stern order the buzz ceased, and fifty pairs of blue, 
black, gray, and brown eyes were obediently fixed upon his 
awful countenance. 

" Miss March, come to the desk." 

Amy rose to comply with outward composure, but a secret 
fear oppressed her, for the limes weighed upon her conscience. 

" Bring with you the limes you have in your desk, " was the 
unexpected command which arrested her before she got out of 
her seat. 

" Don't take all," whispered her neighbor, a young lady of 
great presence of mind. 

Amy hastily shook out half a dozen, and kid the rest down 
before Mr. Davis, feeling that any man possessing a human 
heart would relent when that delicious perfume met his nose. 
Unfortunately, Mr. Davis particularly detested the odor of the 
fashionable pickle, and disgust added to his wrath. 

"Is that all?" 

" Not quite," stammered Amy. 

" Bring the rest immediately." 

With a despairing glance at her set, she obeyed. 

" You are sure there are no more ? " 

" I never lie, sir. " 

" So I see. Now take these disgusting things two by two, and 
throw them out of the window." 

There was a simultaneous sigh, which created quite a little 
gust, as the last hope fled, and the treat was ravished from their 
longing lips. Scarlet with shame and anger, Amy went to and 
fro six dreadful times ; and as each doomed couple looking 
oh ! so plump and juicy fell from her reluctant hands, a 
shout from the street completed the anguish of the girls, for it 



LITTLE WOMEN 73 

told them that their feast was being exulted over by the little 
Irish children, who were their sworn foes. This this was 
too much; all flashed indignant or appealing glances at the 
inexorable Davis, and one passionate lime-lover burst into tears. 

As Amy returned from her last trip, Mr. Davis 

em ! " and said, in his most impressive manner, 

" Ybung ladies, you remember what I said to you a week ago. 
I am sorry this has happened, but I never allow my rules to be 
infringed, and I never break my word. Miss March, hold out 
your hand." 

Amy started, and put both hands behind her, turning on him 
an imploring look which pleaded for her better than the words 
she could not utter. She was rather a favorite with " old 
Davis," as, of course, he was called, and it 's my private belief 
that he would have broken his word if the indignation of one 
irrepressible young lady had not found vent in a hiss. That 
hiss, faint as it was, irritated the irascible gentleman, and sealed 
the culprit's fate. 

" Your hand, Miss March ! " was the only answer her mute 
appeal received ; and, too proud to cry or beseech, Amy set her 
teeth, threw back her head defiantly, and bore without flinching 
several tingling blows on her little palm. They were neither 
many nor heavy, but that made no difference to her. For the 
first time in her life she had been struck ; and the disgrace, in 
her eyes, was as deep as if he had knocked her down. 

" You will now stand on the platform till recess," said Mr. 
Davis, resolved to do the thing thoroughly, since he had begun. 

That was dreadful. It would have been bad enough to go to 
her seat, and see the pitying faces of her friends, or the satisfied 
ones of her few enemies; but to face the whole school, with 
that shame fresh upon her, seemed impossible, and for a second 
she felt as if she could only drop down where she stood, and 
break her heart with crying. A bitter sense of wrong, and the 
thought of Jenny Snow, helped her to bear it; and, taking the 
ignominious place, she fixed her eyes on the stove-funnel above 
what now seemed a sea of faces, and stood there, so motionless 



74 LITTLE WOMEN 

and white that the girls found it very hard to study, with that 
pathetic figure before them. 

During the fifteen minutes that followed, the proud and 
sensitive little girl suffered a shame and pain which she never 
forgot. To others it might seem a ludicrous or trivial affair, 
but to her it was a hard experience ; for during the twelve years 
of her life she had been governed by love alone, and a blow of 
that sort had never touched her before. The smart of her hand 
and the ache of her heart were forgotten in the sting of the 
thought, 

" I shall have to tell at home, and they will be so disappointed 
in me ! " 

The fifteen minutes seemed an hour; but they came to an 
end at last, and the word " Recess ! " had never seemed so 
welcome to her before. 

" You can go, Miss March," said Mr. Davis, looking, as he 
felt, uncomfortable. 

He did not soon forget the reproachful glance Amy gave him, 
as she went, without a word to any one, straight into the ante- 
room, snatched her things, and left the place " forever," as she 
passionately declared to herself. She was in a sad state when 
she got home, and when the older girls arrived, some time later, 
an indignation meeting was held at once. Mrs. March did not 
say much, but looked disturbed, and comforted her afflicted 
little daughter in her tenderest manner. Meg bathed the insulted 
hand with glycerine and tears ; Beth felt that even her beloved 
kittens would fail as a balm for griefs like this ; Jo wrathf ully 
proposed that Mr. Davis be arrested without delay; and 
Hannah shook her fist at the " villain," and pounded potatoes 
for dinner as if she had him under her pestle. 

No notice was taken of Amy's flight, except by her mates; 
but tte-sharg-eyed demoiselles discovered that Mr. Davis was 
quite benignanVin the afternoon, also unusually nervous. Just 
before^school closed, Jo appeared, wearing a grim expression, 
as she stalked up to the desk, and delivered a letter from her 
mother ; then collected Amy's property, and departed, carefully 



LITTLE WOMEN 75 

scraping the mud from her boots on the door-mat, as if she 
shook the dust of the place off her feet. 

" Yes, you can have a vacation from school, but I want you 
to study a little every day, with Beth," said Mrs. March, that 
evening. " I don't approve of corporal punishment, especially 
for girls. I dislike Mr. Davis's manner of teaching, and don't 
think the girls you associate with are doing you any good, so I 
shall ask you father's advice before I send you anywhere else." 

" That 's good ! I wish all the girls would leave, and spoil 
his old school. It 's perfectly maddening to think of those 
lovely limes," sighed Amy, with the air of a martyr. 

" I am not sorry you lost them, for you broke the rules, and 
deserved some punishment for disobedience," was the severe 
reply, which rather disappointed the young lady, who expected 
nothing but sympathy. 

" Do you mean you are glad I was disgraced before the whole 
school ? " cried Amy. 

" I should not have chosen that way of mending a fault," 
replied her mother ; " but I 'm not sure that it won't do you 
more good that a milder method. You are getting to be rather 
conceited, my dear, and it is quite time you set about correcting 
it. You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is 
no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. 
There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be 
overlooked long; even if it is, the consciousness of possessing 
and using it well should satisfy one, and the great charm of all 
power is modesty." 

" So it is ! " cried Laurie, who was playing chess in a corner 
with Jo. "I knew a girl, once, who had a really remarkable 
talent for music, and she did n't know it ; never guessed what 
sweet little things she composed when she was alone, and 
would n't have believed it if any one had told her. " 

" I wish I 'd known that nice girl ; maybe she would have 
helped me, I 'm so stupid," said Beth, who stood beside him, 
listening eagerly. 

" You do know her, and she helps you better than any one else 



76 LITTLE WOMEN 

could," answered Laurie, looking at her with such mischievous 
meaning in his merry black eyes, that Beth suddenly turned 
very red, and hid her face in the sofa-cushion, quite overcome 
by such an unexpected discovery. 

Jo let Laurie win the game, to pay for that praise of her 
Beth, who could not be prevailed upon to play for them after her 
compliment. So Laurie did his best, and sung delightfully, 
being in a particularly lively humor, for to the Marches he 
seldom showed the moody side of his character. When he was 
gone, Amy, who had been pensive all the evening, said suddenly, 
as if busy over some new idea, 

" Is Laurie an accomplished boy ? " 

"Yes; he has had an excellent education, and has much 
talent ; he will make a fine man, if not spoilt by petting," replied 
her mother. 

" And he is n't conceited, is he ? " asked Amy. 

" Not in the least ; that is why he is so charming, and we all 
like him so much." 

" I see ; it 's nice to have accomplishments, and be elegant ; 
but not to show off, or get perked up," said Amy thoughtfully. 

" These things are always seen and felt in a person's manner 
and conversation, if modestly used; but it is not necessary to 
display them," said Mrs. March. 

"Any more than it's proper to wear all your bonnets and 
gowns and ribbons at once, that folks may know you 've got 
them," added Jo ; and the lecture ended in a laugh. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

JO MEETS APOLLYON. 

" GIRLS, where are you going? " asked Amy, coming into 
their room one Saturday afternoon, and rinding them getting 
ready to go out, with an air of secrecy which excited her 
curiosity. 



LITTLE WOMEN 77 

" Never mind ; little girls should n't ask questions," returned 
Jo sharply. 

Now if there is anything mortifying to our feelings, when 
we are young, it is to be told that ; and to be bidden to " run 
away, dear," is still more trying to us. Amy bridled up at this 
insult, and determined to find out the secret, if she teased for 
an hour. Turning to Meg, who never refused her anything very 
long, she said coaxingly, " Do tell me ! I should think you 
might let me go, too ; for Beth is fussing over her piano, and I 
have n't got anything to do, and am so lonely." 

" I can't, dear, because you are n't invited," began Meg ; but 
Jo broke in impatiently, " Now, Meg, be quiet, or you will spoil 
it all. You can't go, Amy ; so don't be a baby, and whine about 
it." 

" You are going somewhere with Laurie, I know you are ; 
you were whispering and laughing together, on the sofa, last 
night, and you stopped when came in. Are n't you going 
with him?" 

" Yes, we are ; now do be still, and stop bothering." 

Amy held her tongue, but used her eyes, and saw Meg slip 
a fan into her pocket. 

" I know ! I know ! you 're going to the theatre to see the 
' Seven Castles ! ' " she cried ; adding resolutely, " and I shall 
go, for mother said I might see it ; and I 've got my rag-money, 
and it was mean not to tell me in time." 

" Just listen to me a minute, and be a good child," said Meg 
soothingly. " Mother does n't wish you to go this week, because 
your eyes are not well enough yet to bear the light of this fairy 
piece. Next week you can go with Beth and Hannah, and have 
a nice time." 

" I don't like that half as well as going with you and Laurie. 
Please let me ; I Ve been sick with this cold so long, and shut 
up, I 'm dying for some fun. Do, Meg ! I '11 be ever so good," 
pleaded Amy, looking as pathetic as she could. 

" Suppose we take her. I don't believe mother would mind, 
if we bundle her up well," began Meg. 



78 LITTLE WOMEN 

" If she goes I sha'n't! and if I don't, Laurie won't like it; 
and it will be very rude, after he invited only us, to go and drag 
in Amy. I should think she 'd hate to poke herself where she 
is n't wanted," said Jo crossly, for she disliked the trouble of 
overseeing a fidgety child, when she wanted to enjoy herself. 

Her tone and manner angered Amy, who began to put her 
boots on, saying, in her most aggravating way. " I shall go ; 
Meg says I may ; and if I pay for myself, Laurie has n't any- 
thing to do with it." 

" You can't sit with us, for our seats are reserved, and you 
mustn't sit alone; so Laurie will give you his place, and that 
will spoil our pleasure ; or he '11 get another seat for you, and 
that is n't proper, when you were n't asked. You sha'n't stir a 
step; so you may just stay where you are," scolded Jo, crosser 
than ever, having just pricked her finger in her hurry. 

Sitting on the floor, with one boot on, Amy began to cry, and 
Meg to reason with her, when Laurie called from below, and 
the two girls hurried down, leaving their sister wailing; for 
now and then she forgot her grown-up ways, and acted like a 
spoilt child. Just as the party was setting out, Amy called 
over the banisters, in a threatening tone, " You '11 be sorry for 
this, Jo March ; see if you ain't." 

" Fiddlesticks," returned Jo, slamming the door. 

They had a charming time, for " The Seven Castles of the 
Diamond Lake " were as brilliant and wonderful as heart could 
wish. But, in spite of the comical red imps, sparkling elves, 
and gorgeous princes and princesses, Jo's pleasure had a drop 
of bitterness in it ; the fairy queen's yellow curls reminded her 
of Amy ; and between the acts she amused herself with wonder- 
ing what her sister would do to make her " sorry for it." She 
and Amy had had many lively skirmishes in the course of their 
lives, for both had quick tempers, and were apt to be violent 
when fairly roused. Amy teased Jo, and Jo irritated Amy, and 
semi-occasional explosions occurred, of which both were much 
ashamed afterward. Although the oldest, Jo had the least self- 
control, and had hard times trying to curb the fiery spirit which 



LITTLE WOMEN 79 

was continually getting her into trouble ; her anger never lasted 
fong, aflfl, flavltlg humbly mmmated hfer fault", she sincerely' 

repented, and tried to do better. Her sisters used to say that 
they rather liked to get Jo into a fury, because she was such 
an angel afterward. Poor Jo tried desperately to be good, but 
her bosom enemy was always ready to flame up and defeat her ; 
and it took years of patient effort to subdue it. 

When they got home, they found Amy reading in the parlor. 
She assumed an injured air as they came in; never lifted her 
eyes from her book, or asked a single question. Perhaps curi- 
osity might have conquered resentment, if Beth had not been 
there to inquire, and receive a glowing description of the play. 
On going up to put away her best hat, Jo's first look was toward 
the bureau; for, in their last quarrel, Amy had soothed her 
feelings by turning Jo's top drawer upside down on the floor. 
Everything was in its place, however; and after a hasty glance 
into her various closets, bags and boxes, Jo decided that Amy 
had forgiven and forgotten her wrongs. 

There jo was mistaken; for next day she made a discovery 
which produced a tempest. Meg, Beth, and Amy were sitting 
together, late in the afternoon, when Jo burst into the room, 
looking excited, and demanding breathlessly, " Has any one 
taken my book ? " 

Meg and Beth said " No," at once, and looked surprised ; Amy 
poked the fire, and said nothing. Jo saw her color rise, and 
was down upon her in a minute. 

" Amy, you 've got it ! " 

" No. I have n't." 

" You know where it is, then ! " 

" No, I don't." 

" That 's a fib ! " cried Jo, taking her by the shoulders, and 
looking fierce enough to frighten a much braver child than 
Amy. 

" It is n't. I have n't got it, don't know where it is now, and 
don't care. 5 ' 



8o LITTLE WOMEN 

" You know something about it, and you 'd better tell at once, 
or I '11 make you," and Jo gave her a slight shake. 

" Scold as much as you like, you '11 never see your silly old 
book again," cried Amy, getting excited in her turn. 

"Why not?" 

" I burnt it up." 

" What ! my little book I was so fond of, and worked over, 
and meant to finish before father got home? Have you really 
burnt it ? " said Jo, turning very pale, while her eyes kindled 
and her hands clutched Amy nervously. 

" Yes, I did ! I told you I 'd make you pay for being so 
cross yesterday, and I have, so " 

Amy got no farther, for Jo's hot temper mastered her, and 
she shook Amy till her teeth chattered in her head; crying, in 
a passion of grief and anger, 

" You wicked, wicked girl ! I never can write it again, and 
I '11 never forgive you as long as I live." 

Meg flew to rescue Amy, and Beth to pacify Jo, but Jo was 
quite beside herself ; and, with a parting box on her sister's ear, 
she rushed out of the room up to the old sofa in the garret, 
and finished her fight alone. 

The storm cleared up below, for Mrs. March came home, 
and, having heard the story, soon brought Amy to a sense of 
the wrong she had done her sister. Jo's book was the pride of 
her heart, and was regarded by her family as a literary sprout 
of great promise. It was only half a dozen little fairy tales, 
but Jo had worked over them patiently, putting her whole heart 
into her work, hoping to make something good enough to print. 
She had just copied them with great care, and had destroyed 
the old manuscript, so that Amy's bonfire had consumed the 
loving work of several years. It seemed a small loss to others, 
but to Jo it was a dreadful calamity, and she felt that it never 
could be made up to her. Beth mourned as for a departed kit- 
ten, and Meg refused to defend her pet; Mrs. March looked 
grave and grieved, and Amy felt that no one would love her till 



LITTLE WOMEN 81 

She had asked pardon for the act which she now regretted more 
fehan any of them. 

When the tea-bell rang, Jo appeared, looking so grim and un- 
approachable that it took all Amy's courage to say meekly, 

" Please forgive me, Jo ; I 'm very, very sorry." 

" I never shall forgive you," was Jo's stern answer ; and, 
from that moment, she ignored Amy entirely. 

No one spoke of the great trouble, not even Mrs. March, 
for all had learned by experience that when Jo was in that 
mood words were wasted; and the wisest course was to wait 
till some little accident, or her own generous nature, softened 
Jo's resentment, and healed the breach. It was not a happy 
evening; for, though they sewed as usual, while their mother 
read aloud from Bremer, Scott, or Edgeworth, something was 
wanting, and the sweet home-peace was disturbed. They felt 
this most when singing-time came ; for Beth could only play, Jo 
stood dumb as a stone, and Amy broke down, so Meg and 
mother sung alone. But, in spite of their efforts to be as cheery 
as larks, the flute-like voices did not seem to chord as well as 
usual, and all felt out of tune. 

As Jo received her good-night kiss, Mrs. March whispered 
gently, 

" My dear, don't let the sun go down upon your anger ; for- 
give each other, help each other, and begin again to-morrow." 

Jo wanted to lay her head down on that motherly bosom, and 
r.ry her grief and anger all away ; but tears were an unmanly 
weakness, and she felt so deeply injured that she really could n't 
quite forgive yet. So she winked hard, shook her head, and 
said, gruffly because Amy was listening, 

" It was an abominable thing, and she don't deserve to be 
forgiven." 

With that she marched off to bed, and there was no merry 
or confidential gossip that night. 

Amy was much offended that her overtures of peace had been 
repulsed, and began to wish she had not humbled herself, to 
feel more injured than ever, and to plume herself on her 



82 LITTLE WOMEN 

superior virtue in a way which was particularly exasperating. 
Jo still looked like a thundercloud, and nothing went well all 
day. It was bitter cold in the morning ; she dropped her precious 
turn-over in the gutter, Aunt March had an attack of fidgets, 
Meg was pensive, Beth would look grieved and wistful when 
she got home, and Amy kept making remarks about people 
who were always talking about being good, and yet wouldn't 
try, when other people set them a virtuous example. 

" Everybody is so hateful, I '11 ask Laurie to go skating. He 
is always kind and jolly, and will put me to rights, I know," 
said Jo to herself, and off she went. 

Amy heard the clash of skates, and looked out with an im- 
patient exclamation, 

" There ! she promised I should go next time, for this is the 
last ice we shall have. But it 's no use to ask such a cross- 
patch to take me." 

" Don't say that ; you were very naughty, and it is hard to 
forgive the loss of her precious little book ; but I think she might 
do it now, and I guess she will, if you try her at the right 
minute," said Meg. " Go after them ; don't say anything till 
Jo has got good-natured with Laurie, then take a quiet minute, 
and just kiss her, or do some kind thing, and I 'm sure she '11 
be friends again, with all her heart." 

" I '11 try," said Amy, for the advice suited her ; and, after 
a flurry to get ready, she ran after the friends, who were just 
disappearing over the hill. 

It was not far to the river, but both were ready before Amy 
reached them. Jo saw her coming, and turned her back ; Laurie 
did not see, for he was carefully skating along the shore, sound- 
ing the ice, for a warm spell had preceded the cold snap. 

" I '11 go on to the first bend, and see if it 's all right, before 
we begin to race," Amy heard him say, as he shot away, looking 
like a young Russian, in his fur- trimmed coat and cap. 

Jo heard Amy panting after her run, stamping her feet and 
blowing her fingers, as she tried to put her skates on; but Jo 
never turned, and went slowly zigzagging down the river, tak- 



LITTLE WOMEN 83 

mg a bitter, unhappy sort of satisfaction in her sister's troubles. 
She had cherished her anger till it grew strong, and took posses- 
sion of her, as evil thoughts and feelings always do, unless 
cast out at once. As Laurie turned the bend, he shouted 
back, 

" Keep near the shore ; it is not safe in the middle." 

Jo heard, but Amy was just struggling to her feet, and did 
not catch a word. Jo glanced over her shoulder, and the little 
demon she was harboring said in her ear, 

" No matter whether she heard or not, let her take care of 
herself." 

Laurie had vanished round the bend ; Jo was just at the turn, 
and Amy, far behind, striking out toward the smoother ice in 
the middle of the river. For a minute Jo stood still, with a 
strange feeling at her heart; then she resolved to go on, but 
something held and turned her round, just in time to see Amy 
throw up her hands and go down, with the sudden crash of rot- 
ten ice, the splash of water, and a cry that made Jo's heart stand 
still with fear. She tried to call Laurie, but her voice was gone ; 
she tried to rush forward, but her feet seemed to have no 
strength in them ; and, for a second, she could only stand mo- 
tionless, staring, with a terror-stricken face, at the little blue 
hood above the black water. Something rushed swiftly by her, 
and Laurie's voice cried out, 

" Bring a rail ; quick, quick ! " 

How she did it, she never knew ; but for the next few minutes 
she worked as if possessed, blindly obeying Laurie, who was 
quite self-possessed, and, lying flat, held Amy up by his arm 
and hockey till Jo dragged a rail from the fence, and together 
they got the child out, more frightened than hurt. 

" Now then, we must walk her home as fast as we can ; pile 
our things on her, while I get off these confounded skates," 
cried Laurie, wrapping his coat round Amy, and tugging away 
at the straps, which never seemed so intricate before. 

Shivering, dripping, and crying, they got Amy home; and, 
alter an exciting time of it, she fell asleep, rolled in blankets, 



84 LITTLE WOMEN 

before a hot fire. During the bustle Jo had scarcely spoken; 
but flown about, looking pale and wild, with her things half 
off, her dress torn, and her hands cut and bruised by ice and 
rails, and refractory buckles. When Amy was comfortably 
asleep, the house quiet, and Mrs. March sitting by the bed, she 
called Jo to her, and began to bind up the hurt hands. 

" Are you sure she is safe ? " whispered Jo, looking remorse- 
fully at the golden head, which might have been swept away 
from her sight forever under the treacherous ice. 

" Quite safe, dear ; she is not hurt, and won't even take cold, 
I think, you were so sensible in covering and getting her home 
quickly," replied her mother cheerfully. 

" Laurie did it all ; I only let her go. Mother, if she should 
die, it would be my fault " ; and Jo dropped down beside the 
bed, in a passion of penitent tears, telling all that had happened, 
bitterly condemning her hardness of heart, and sobbing out her 
gratitude for being spared the heavy punishment which might 
have come upon her. 

" It 's my dreadful temper ! I try to cure it ; I think I have, 
and then it breaks out worse than ever. O mother, what shall 
I do ? what shall I do ? " cried poor Jo, in despair. 

" Watch and pray, dear; never get tired of trying; and never 
think it is impossible to conquer your fault," said Mrs. March, 
drawing the blowzy head to her shoulder, and kissing the wet 
cheek so tenderly that Jo cried harder than ever. 

" You don't know, you can't guess how bad it is ! It seems 
as if I could do anything when I'm in a passion ; I get so savage, 
I could hurt any one, and enjoy it. I 'm afraid I shall do some- 
thing dreadful some day, and spoil my life, and make everybody 
hate me. O mother, help me, do help me ! " 

" I will, my child, I will. Don't cry so bitterly, but remember 
this day, and resolve, with all your soul, that you will never know 
another like it. Jo, dear, we all have our temptations, some far 
greater than yours, and it often takes us all our lives to conquer 
them. You think your temper is the worst in the world ; but 
mine used to be just like it." 






LITTLE WOMEN 85 

" Yours, mother ? Why, you are never angry ! " and, for the 
moment, Jo forgot remorse in surprise. 

" I 've been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only 
succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of 
my life, Jo ; but I have learned not to show it ; and I still hope 
to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty 
years to do so." 

The patience and the humility of the face she loved so well 
was a better lesson to Jo than the wisest lecture, the sharpest 
reproof. She felt comforted at once by the sympathy and con- 
fidence given her; the knowledge that her mother had a fault 
like hers, and tried to mend it, made her own easier to bear and 
strengthened her resolution to cure it; though forty years 
seemed rather a long time to watch and pray, to a girl of fifteen, 

" Mother, are you angry when you fold your lips tight to- 
gether, and go out of the room sometimes, when Aunt March 
scolds, or people worry you ? " asked Jo, feeling nearer and 
dearer to her mother than ever before. 

" Y!es, I Ve learned to check the hasty words that rise to my 
lips ; and when I feel that they mean to break out against my 
will, I just go away a minute, and give myself a little shake, for 
being so weak and wicked," answered Mrs. March, with a sigh 
and a smile, as she smoothed and fastened up Jo's dishevelled 
hair. 

"How did you learn to keep still ? That is what troubles me 
for the sharp words fly out before I know what I 'm about ; 
and the more I say the worse I get, till it 's a pleasure to hurt 
people's feelings, and say dreadful things. Tell me how you do 
it, Marmee dear." 

" My good mother used to help me " 

" As you do us " interrupted Jo, with a grateful kiss. 

" But I lost her when I was a little older than you are, and 
for years had to struggle on alone, for I was too proud to 
confess my weakness to any one else. I had a hard time, Jo, 
and shed a good many bitter tears over my failures; for, in 
spite of my efforts, I never seemed to get on. Then your father 



86 LITTLE WOMEN 

came, and I was so happy that I found it easy to be good. But 
by and by, when I had four little daughters round me, and we 
were poor, then the old trouble began again ; for I am not patient 
by nature, and it tried me very much to see my children wanting 
anything." 

" Poor mother! what helped you then?" 

" Your father, Jo. He never loses patience, never doubts 
or complains, but always hopes, and works and waits so 
cheerfully, that one is ashamed to do otherwise before him. He 
helped and comforted me, and showed me that I must try to 
practise all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for 
I was their example. It was easier to try for your sakes than 
for my own ; a startled or surprised look from one of you, when 
I spoke sharply, rebuked me more than any words could have 
done ; and the love, respect, and confidence of my children was 
the sweetest reward I could receive for my efforts to be the 
woman I would have them copy." 

" O mother, if I 'm ever half as good as you, I shall be satis- 
fied," cried Jo, much touched. 

" I hope you will be a great deal better, dear ; but you must 
keep watch over your ' bosom enemy/ as father calls it, or it 
may sadden, if not spoil your life. You have had a warning, 
remember it, and try with heart and soul to master this quick 
temper, before it brings you greater sorrow and regret than 
you have known to-day." 

" I will try, mother ; I truly will. But you must help me, 
remind me, and keep me from flying out. I used to see father 
sometimes put his finger on his lips, and look at you with a 
very kind, but sober face, and you always folded your lips 
tight or went away : was he reminding you then ? " asked Jo 
softly. 

" Yes ; I asked him to help me so, and he never forgot it, but 
saved me from many a sharp word by that little gesture and 
kind look." 

Jo saw that her mother's eyes filled and her lips trembled, as 
she spoke; and., fearing that she had said too much, she 



LITTLE WOMEN 87 

whispered anxiously, " Was it wrong to watch you, and to 
speak of it? I did n't mean to be rude, but it 's so comfortable 
to say all I think to you, and feel so safe and happy here." 

" My Jo, you may say anything to your mother, for it is my 
greatest happiness and pride to feel that my girls confide in me, 
and know how much I love them." 

" I thought I 'd grieved you." 

" No, my dear ; but speaking of father reminded me how 
much I miss him, how much I owe him, and how faithfully I 
should watch and work to keep his little daughters safe and 
good for him." 

" Yet you told him to go, mother, and did n't cry when he 
went, and never complain now, or seem as if you needed any 
help," said Jo, wondering. 

" I gave my best to the country I love, and kept my tears till 
he was gone. Why should I complain, when we both have 
merely done our duty and will surely be the happier for it in the 
end? If I don't seem to need help, it is because I have a better 
friend, even than father, to comfort and sustain me. My 
child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, 
and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all 
if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your 
Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more 
you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and 
the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His 
love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from 
you, but may become the source of life-long peace, happiness, 
and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your 
little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and 
confidingly as you come to your mother." 

Jo's only answer was to hold her mother close, and, in the 
silence which followed, the sincerest prayer she had ever prayed 
left her heart without words ; for in that sad, yet happy hour, 
she had learned not only the bitterness of remorse and despair, 
but the sweetness of self-denial and self-control ; and, led by her 
mother's hand, she had drawn nearer to the Friend who wel- 



88 LITTLE WOMEN 

comes every child with a love stronger than that ox any father, 
tenderer than that of any mother. 

Amy stirred, and sighed in her sleep ; and, as if eager to begin 
at once to mend her fault, Jo looked up with an expression on 
her face which it had never worn before. 

" I let the sun go down on my anger ; I would n't forgive her, 
and to-day, if it had n't been for Laurie, it might have been too 
late ! How could I be so wicked ? " said Jo, half aloud, as she 
leaned over her sister, softly stroking the wet hair scattered on 
the pillow. 

As if she heard, Amy opened her eyes, and held out her arms, 
with a smile that went straight to Jo's heart. Neither said a 
word, but they hugged one another close, in spite of the blankets, 
and everything was forgiven and forgotten in one hearty kiss. 



CHAPTER IX. 

MEG GOES TO VANITY FAIR. 

" I DO think it was the most fortunate thing in the world 
that those children should have the measles just now," said 
Meg, one April day, as she stood packing the " go abroady " 
trunk in her room, surrounded by her sisters. 

" And so nice of Annie Moffat not to forget her promise. A 
whole fortnight of fun will be regularly splendid," replied Jo, 
looking like a windmill, as she folded skirts with her long arms. 

" And such lovely weather ; I 'm so glad of that," added Beth, 
tidily sorting neck and hair ribbons in her best box, lent for 
the great occasion. 

" I wish I was going to have a fine time, and wear all these 
nice things/' said Amy, with her mouth full of pins, as she 
artistically replenished her sister's cushion. 

" I wish you were all going ; but, as you can't, I shall keep 
my adventures to tell you when I come back. I 'm sure it 's 
the least I can do, when you have been so kind, lending me 



LITTLE WOMEN 89 

things, ana helping me get ready," said Meg, glancing round 
the room at the very simple outfit, which seemed nearly per- 
fect in her eyes. 

" What did mother give you out of the treasure-box ? " asked 
Amy, who had not been present at the opening of a certain 
cedar chest, in which Mrs. March kept a few relics of past 
splendor, as gifts for her girls when the proper time came. 

" A pair of silk stockings, that pretty carved fan, and a lovely 
blue sash. I wanted the violet silk ; but there is n't time to make 
it over, so I must be contented with my old tarlatan." 

" It will look nicely over my new muslin skirt, and the sash 
will set it off beautifully. I wish I had n't smashed my coral 
bracelet, for you might have had it," said Jo, who loved to give 
and lend, but whose possessions were usually too dilapidated to 
be of much use.^ 

" There is a lovely old-fashioned pearl set in the treasure-box; 
but mother said real flowers were the prettiest ornament for a 
young girl, and Laurie promised to send me all I want," re- 
plied Meg. " Now, let me see ; there 's my new gray walking- 
suit just curl up the feather in my hat Beth, then my 
poplin, for Sunday, and the small party, it looks heavy for 
spring, does n't it ? The violet silk would be so nice ; oh, dear ! " 

" Never mind ; you 've got the tarlatan for the big party, and 
you always look like an angel in white," said Amy, brooding 
over the little store of finery in which her soul delighted. 

"It is n't low-necked, and it does n't sweep enough, but it 
will have to do. My blue house-dress looks so well, turned 
and freshly trimmed, that I feel as if I 'd got a new one. My 
silk sacque is n't a bit the fashion, and my bonnet does n't look 
like Sallie's; I didn't like to say anything, but I was sadly 
disappointed in my umbrella. I told mother black, with a white 
handle, but she forgot, and bought a green one, with a yellowish 
handle. It J s strong and neat, so I ought not to complain, but 
I know I shall feel ashamed of it beside Annie's silk one with 
a gold top," sighed Meg, surveying the little umbrella with 
great disfavor. 



p LITTLE WOMEN 

" Change it," advised Jo. 

" I won't be so silly, or hurt Marmee's feelings, when she 
took so much pains to get my things. It 's a nonsensical notion 
of mine, and I 'm not going to give up to it. My silk 
stockings and two pairs of new gloves are my comfort. You 
are a dear, to lend me yours, Jo. I feel so rich, and sort of 
elegant, with two new pairs, and the old ones cleaned up for 
common ; " and Meg took a refreshing peep at her glove-box. 

"Annie Moffat has blue and pink bows on her night-caps; 
would you put some on mine ? " she asked, as Beth brought up 
a pile of snowy muslins, fresh from Hannah's hands. 

" No, I would n't ; for the smart caps won't match the plain 
gowns, without any trimming on them. Poor folks shouldn't 
rig," said Jo decidedly. 

" I wonder if I shall ever be happy enough to have real lace 
on my clothes, and bows on my caps ? " said Meg impatiently. 

" You said the other day that you 'd be perfectly happy if 
you could only go to Annie Moffat's," observed Beth, in her 
quiet way. 

"So I did ! Well, I am happy, and I won't fret ; but it does 
seem as if the more one gets the more one wants, doesn't it? 
There, now, the trays are ready, and everything in but my ball- 
dress, which I shall leave for mother to pack," said Meg, cheer- 
ing up, as she glanced from the half -filled trunk to the many- 
times pressed and mended white tarlatan, which she called her 
" ball-dress," with an important air. 

The next day was fine, and Meg departed, in style, for a 
fortnight of novelty and pleasure. Mrs. March had consented 
to the visit rather reluctantly, fearing that Margaret would 
come back more discontented than she went. But she had 
begged so hard, and Sallie had promised to take good care of 
her, and a little pleasure seemed so delightful after a winter of 
irksome work, that the mother yielded, and the daughter went 
to take her first taste of fashionable life. 

The Moffats were very fashionable, and simple Meg was 
rather daunted, at first, by the splendor of the house and the 



LITTLE WOMEN 91 

elegance of its occupants. But they were kindly people, in 
spite of the frivolous life they led, and soon put their guest at 
her ease. Perhaps Meg felt, without understanding why, that 
they were not particularly cultivated or intelligent people, and 
that all their gilding could not quite conceal the ordinary ma- 
terial of which they were made. It certainly was agreeable to 
fare sumptuously, drive in a fine carriage, wear her best frock 
every day, and do nothing but enjoy herself. It suited her ex- 
actly ; and soon she began to imitate the manners and conversa- 
tion of those about her; to put on little airs and graces, use 
French phrases, crimp her hair, take in her dresses, and talk 
about the fashions as well as she could. The more she saw of 
Annie Moffat's pretty things, the more she envied her, and 
sighed to be rich. Home now looked bare and dismal as she 
thought of it, work grew harder than ever, and she felt that 
she was a very destitute and much-injured girl, in spite of the 
new gloves and silk stockings. 

She had not much time for repining, however for the three 
young girls were busily employed in " having a good time." 
They shopped, walked, rode, and called all day; went to the- 
atres and operas, or frolicked at home in the evening ; for Annie 
had many friends, and knew how to entertain them. Her older 
sisters were very fine young ladies, and one was engaged, which 
was extremely interesting and romantic, Meg thought. Mr. 
Moffat was a fat, jolly old gentleman, who knew her father; 
and Mrs. Moffat, a fat jolly old lady, who took as great a 
fancy to Meg as her daughter had done. Every one petted her ; 
and " Daisy," as they called her, was in a fair way to have her 
head turned. 

When the evening for the " small party " came, she found 
that the poplin would n't do at all, for the other girls were 
putting on thin dresses, and making themselves very fine indeed ; 
so out came the tarlatan, looking older, limper, and shabbier 
than ever beside Sallie's crisp new one. Meg saw the girls 
glance at it and then at one another, and her cheeks began to 
burn, for, with all her gentleness, she was very proud. No one 



92 LITTLE WOMEN 

said a word about it, but Sallie offered to dress her hair, and 
Annie to tie her sash, and Belle, the engaged sister, praised 
her white arms; but in their kindness Meg saw only pity for 
her poverty, and her heart felt very heavy as she stood by her- 
self, while the others laughed, chattered, and flew about like 
gauzy butterflies. The hard, bitter feeling was getting pretty 
bad, when the maid brought in a box of flowers. Before she 
could speak, Annie had the cover off, and all were exclaiming 
at the lovely roses, heath, and fern within. 

" It 's for Belle, of course ; George always sends her some, 
but these are altogether ravishing," cried Annie, with a great 
sniff. 

" They are for Miss March, the man said. And here 's a 
note," put in the maid, holding it to Meg. 

" What fun ! Who are they from ? Did n't know you had 
a lover," cried the girls, fluttering about Meg in a high state 
of curiosity and surprise. 

" The note is from mother, and the flowers from Laurie," 
said Meg simply, yet much gratified that he had not forgotten 
her. 

" Oh, indeed ! " said Annie, with a funny look, as Meg slipped 
the note into her pocket, as a sort of talisman against envy, 
vanity, and false pride ; for the few loving words had done her 
good, and the flowers cheered her up by their beauty. 

Feeling almost happy again, she laid by a few ferns and roses 
for herself, and quickly made up the rest in dainty bouquets 
for the breasts, hair, or skirts of her friends, offering them so 
prettily that Clara, the older sister, told her she was " the 
sweetest little thing she ever saw ; " and they looked quite 
charmed with her small attention. Somehow the kind act fin- 
ished her despondency ; and when all the rest went to show them- 
selves to Mrs. Moffat, she saw a happy, bright-eyed face in the 
mirror, as she laid her ferns against her rippling hair, and 
fastened the roses in the dress that did n't strike her as so 
very shabby now. 

She enjoyed herself very much that evening, for she danced 



LITTLE WOMEN 93 

to her heart's content; every one was very kind, and she had 
three compliments. Annie made her sing, and some one said 
she had a remarkably fine voice ; Major Lincoln asked who " the 
fresh little girl, with the beautiful eyes," was ; and Mr. Moffat 
insisted on dancing with her, because she " did n't dawdle, but 
had some spring in her," as he gracefully expressed it. So, 
altogether, she had a very nice time, till she overheard a bit oi 
a conversation which disturbed her extremely. She was sitting 
just inside the conservatory, waiting for her partner to bring 
her an ice, when she heard a voice ask, on the other side of the 
flowery wall, 

"How old is he?" 

" Sixteen or seventeen, I should say," replied another voice. 

" It would be a grand thing for one of those girls, would n't 
it? Sallie says they are very intimate now, and the old man 
quite dotes on them." 

" Mrs. M. has made her plans, I dare say, and will play her 
cards well, early as it is. The girl evidently does n't think of 
it yet," said Mrs. Moffat. 

" She told that fib about her mamma, as if she did know, and 
colored up when the flowers came, quite prettily. Poor thing ! 
she 'd be so nice if she was only got up in style. Do you think 
she 'd be offended if we offered to lend her a dress for Thurs- 
day ? " asked another voice. 

" She 's proud, but I don't believe she 'd mind, for that dowdy 
tarlatan is all she has got. She may tear it tonight, and that 
will be a good excuse for offering a decent one." 

" We '11 see. I shall ask young Laurence, as a compliment 
to her, and we'll have fun about it afterward." 

Here Meg's partner appeared, to find her looking much 
flushed and rather agitated. She was proud, and her pride was 
useful just then, for it helped her hide her mortification, anger, 
and disgust at what she had just heard ; for, innocent and un- 
suspicious as she was, she could not help understanding the 
gossip of her friends. She tried to forget it, but could not, and 
kept repeating to herself, " Mrs. M. has made her plans," " that 



94 LITTLE WOMEN 

fib about her mamma," and " dowdy tarlatan," till she was ready 
to cry, and rush home to tell her troubles and ask for advice. 
As that was impossible, she did her best to seem gay ; and being 
rather excited, she succeeded so well that no one dreamed what 
an effort she was making. She was very glad when it was all 
over, and she was quiet in her bed, where she could think and 
wonder and fume till her head ached and her hot cheeks were 
cooled by a few natural tears. Those foolish, yet well meant 
words, had opened a new world to Meg, and much disturbed the 
peace of the old one, in which, till now, she had lived as happily 
as a child. Her innocent friendship with Laurie was spoilt by 
the silly speeches she had overheard ; her faith in her mother was 
a little shaken by the worldly plans attributed to her by Mrs. 
Moffat, who judged others by herself ; and the sensible resolu- 
tion to be contented with the simple wardrobe which suited a 
poor man's daughter, was weakened by the unnecessary pity 
of girls who thought a shabby dress one of the greatest calam- 
ities under heaven. 

Poor Meg had a restless night, and got up heavy-eyed, un- 
happy, half resentful toward her friends, and half ashamed 
of herself for not speaking out frankly, and setting everything 
right. Everybody dawdled that morning, and it was noon before 
the girls found energy enough even to take up their worsted 
work. Something in the manner of her friends struck Meg at 
once; they treated her with more respect, she thought; took 
quite a tender interest in what she said, and looked at her with 
eyes that plainly betrayed curiosity. All this surprised and 
flattered her, though she did not understand it till Miss Belle 
looked up from her writing, and said, with a sentimental air, 

" Daisy, dear, I Ve sent an invitation to your friend, Mr. 
Laurence, for Thursday. We should like to know him, and it 's 
only a proper compliment to you." 

Meg colored, but a mischievous fancy to tease the girls made 
her reply demurely, 

" You are very kind, but I 'm afraid he won't come/* 

" Why not, cherief " asked Miss Belle. 



LITTLE WOMEN 95 

41 He 's too old." 

" My child, what do you mean ? What is his age, I beg to 
Know ! " cried Miss Clara. 

" Nearly seventy, I believe," answered Meg, counting stitches, 
to hide the merriment in her eyes. 

" You sly creature ! Of course we meant the young man," 
exclaimed Miss Belle, laughing. 

" There is n't any ; Laurie is only a little boy," and Meg 
laughed also at the queer look which the sisters exchanged aj, 
she thus described her supposed lover. 

" About your age," Nan said. 

" Nearer my sister Jo's ; / am seventeen in August," returned 
Meg, tossing her head. 

" It 's very nice of him to send you flowers, is n't it ? " said 
Annie, looking wise about nothing. 

" Yes, he often does, to all of us ; for their house is full, 
and we are so fond of them. My mother and old Mr. Laur- 
ence are friends, you know, so it is quite natural that we chil- 
dren should play together ; " and Meg hoped they would say 
no more. 

" It 's evident Daisy is n't out yet/' said Miss Clara to Belle, 
with a nod. 

" Quite a pastoral state of innocence all around," returned 
Miss Belle, with a shrug. 

" I 'm going out to get some little matters for my girls ; can 
I do anything for you, young ladies ? " asked Mrs. Moffat, 
lumbering in, like an elephant, in silk and lace. 

" No, thank you, ma'am," replied Sallie. " I 've got my new 
pink silk for Thursday, and don't want a thing." 

" Nor I, " began Meg, but stopped, because it occurred 
to her that she did want several things, and could not have 
them. 

"What shall you wear?" asked Sallie. 

" My old white one again, if I can mend it fit to be seen ; 
it got sadly torn last night," said Meg, trying to speak quite 
easily, but feeling very uncomfortable. 



96 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Why don't you send home for another ? " said Sallie, who 
was not an observing young lady. 

" I have n't got any other." It cost Meg an effort to say 
that, but Sallie did not see it, and exclaimed, in amiable sur- 
prise, 

"Only that ? How funny " She did not finish her speech, 
for Belle shook her head at her, and broke in, saying kindly, 

" Not at all ; where is the use of having a lot of dresses when 
she is n't out? There 's no need of sending home, Daisy, even 
if you had a dozen, for I 've got a sweet blue silk laid away, 
which I Ve outgrown, and you shall wear it, to please me, 
won't you, dear?" 

" Ybu are very kind, but I don't mind my old dress, if you 
don't; it does well enough for a little girl like me," said Meg. 

" Now do let me please myself by dressing you up in style. 
I admire to do it, and you 'd be a regular little beauty, with 
a touch here and there. I sha'n't let any one see you till you 
are done, and then we '11 burst upon them like Cinderella and 
her godmother, going to the ball," said Belle, in her persuasive 
tone. 

Meg could n't refuse the offer so kindly made, for a desire 
to see if she would be " a little beauty " after touching up, 
caused her to accept, and forget all her former uncomfortable 
feelings towards the Moffats. 

On the Thursday evening, Belle shut herself up with her 
maid; and, between them, they turned Meg into a fine lady. 
They crimped and curled her hair, they polished her neck and 
arms with some fragrant powder, touched her lips with coral- 
line salve, to make them redder, and Hortense would have 
added " a soupgon of rouge," if Meg had not rebelled. They 
laced her into a sky-blue dress, which was so tight she could 
hardly breathe, and so low in the neck that modest Meg blushed 
at herself in the mirror. A set of silver filagree was added, 
bracelets, necklace, brooch, and even ear-rings, for Hortense tied 
them on, with a bit of pink silk, which did not show. A cluster 
of tea-rosebuds at the bosom, and a ruche, reconciled Meg to 



LITTLE WOMEN 97 

the display of her pretty white shoulders, and a pair of high- 
heeled blue silk boots satisfied the last wish of her heart. A 
laced handkerchief, a plumy fan, and a bouquet in a silver 
holder finished her off; and Miss Belle surveyed her with the 
satisfaction of a little girl with a newly dressed doll. 

" Mademoiselle is charmante, trts jolie, is she not? " cried 
Hortense, clasping her hands in an affected rapture. 

" Come and show yourself," said Miss Belle, leading the 
way to the room where the others were waiting. 

As Meg went rustling after, with her long skirts trailing, 
her ear-rings tinkling, her curls waving, and her heart beating, 
she felt as if her " fun " had really begun at last, for the mirror 
had plainly told her that she was " a little beauty." Her friends 
repeated the pleasing phrase enthusiastically; and, for several 
minutes, she stood, like the jackdaw in the fable, enjoying her 
borrowed plumes, while the rest chattered like a party of 
magpies. 

" While I dress, do you drill her, Nan, in the management 
of her skirt, and those French heels, or she will trip herself 
up. Take your silver butterfly, and catch up that long curl 
on the left side of her head, Clara, and don't any of you disturb 
the charming work of my hands," said Belle, as she hurried 
away, looking well pleased with her success. 

" I 'm afraid to go down, I feel so queer and stiff and half- 
dressed," said Meg to Sallie, as the bell rang, and Mrs. Moffat 
sent to ask the young ladies to appear at once. 

" You don't look a bit like yourself, but you are very nice. 
I 'm nowhere beside you, for Belle has heaps of taste, and 
you 're quite French, I assure you. Let your flowers hang ; 
don't be so careful of them, and be sure you don't trip," re- 
turned Sallie, trying not to care that Meg was prettier than 
herself. 

Keeping that warning carefully in mind, Margaret got safely 
down stairs, and sailed into the drawing-rooms, where the 
Moffats and a few early guests were assembled. She very soon 
discovered that there is a charm about fine clothes which at- 



98 LITTLE WOMEN 

tracts a certain class of people, and secures their respect. Sev- 
eral young ladies, who had taken no notice of her before, were 
very affectionate all of a sudden; several young gentlemen, 
who had only stared at her at the other party, now not only 
stared, but asked to be introduced, and said all manner of 
foolish but agreeable things to her ; and several old ladies, who 
sat on sofas and criticised the rest of the party, inquired who 
she was, with an air of interest. She heard Mrs. Moffat reply 
to one of them, 

" Daisy March father a colonel in the army one of our 
first families, but reverses of fortune, you know; intimate 
friends of the Laurences; sweet creature, I assure you; my 
Ned is quite wild about her." 

" Dear me ! " said the old lady, putting up her glass for an- 
other observation of Meg, who tried to look as if she had not 
heard, and been rather shocked at Mrs. Moffat's fibs. 

The " queer feeling " did not pass away, but she imagined 
herself acting the new part of fine lady, and so got on pretty 
well, though the tight dress gave her a side-ache, the train kept 
getting under her feet, and she was in constant fear lest her 
ear-rings should fly off, and get lost or broken. She was flirt- 
ing her fan, and laughing at the feeble jokes of a young gentle- 
man who tried to be witty, when she suddenly stopped laughing, 
and looked confused; for, just opposite, she saw Laurie. He 
was staring at her with undisguised surprise, and disapproval 
also, she thought ; for, though he bowed and smiled, yet_some- 
thing in his honest eves made her blush, and wish she had her 
old dress on. To complete her confusion, she saw Belle nudge 
Annie, and both glance from her to Laurie, who, she was happy 
to see, looked unusually boyish and shy. 

" Silly creatures, to put such thoughts into my head ! I 
won't care for it, or let it change me a bit," thought Meg, and 
rustled across the room to shake hands with her friend. 

" I 'm glad you came, I was afraid you would n't," she said, 
with her most grown-up air. 

" Jo wanted me to come, and tell her how you looked, so I 



LITTLE WOMEN 99 

did ; " answered Laurie, without turning his eyes upon her 
though he half smiled at her maternal tone. 

" What shall you tell her ? " asked Meg, full of curiosity to 
know his opinion of her, yet feeling ill at ease with him, for 
the first time. 

" I shall say I did n't know you ; for you look so grown-up 
and unlike yourself, I 'm quite afraid of you," he said fumbling 
at his glove-button. 

" How absurd of you ! The girls dressed me up for fun, and 
I rather like it. Would n't Jo stare if she saw me? " said Meg, 
bent on making him say whether he thought her improved or 
not. 

" Yes, I think she would," returned Laurie gravely. 

" Don't you like me so ? " asked Meg. 

" No, I don't," was the blunt reply. 

" Why not ? " in an anxious tone. 

He glanced at her frizzled head, bare shoulders, and fan- 
tastically trimmed dress, with an expression that abashed her 
more than his answer, which had not a particle of his usual 
politeness about it. 

" I don't like fuss and feathers." 

That was altogether too much from a lad younger than her- 
self; and Meg walked away, saying petulantly, 

" You are the rudest boy I ever saw." 

Feeling very much ruffled, she went and stood at a quiet 
window, to cool her cheeks, for the tight dress gave her an 
uncomfortably brilliant color. As she stood there, Major 
Lincoln passed by; and, a minute after, she heard him saying 
to his mother, 

" They are making a fool of that little girl ; I wanted you to 
see her, but they have spoilt her entirely; she's nothing but 
a doll, to-night." 

" Oh, dear ! " sighed Meg ; " I wish I 'd been sensible, and 
worn my own things ; then I should not have disgusted other 
people or felt so uncomfortable and ashamed myself." 

She leaned her forehead on the cool pane, and stood half 



loo LITTLE WOMEN 

hidden by the curtains, never minding that her favorite waltz 
had begun, till some one touched her; and, turning, she saw 
Laurie, looking penitent, as he said, with his very best bow, and 
his hand out, 

" Please forgive my rudeness, and come and dance with me." 

" I 'm afraid it will be too disagreeable to you," said Meg, try- 
ing to look offended, and failing entirely. 

" Not a bit of it ; I 'm dying to do it. Come, I '11 be good ; 
I don't like your gown, but I do think you are just splendid ; " 
and he waved his hands, as if words failed to express his ad- 
miration. 

Meg smiled and relented, and whispered, as they stood wait- 
ing to catch the time, 

" Take care my skirt don't trip you up ; it *s the plague of 
my life, and I was a goose to wear it." 

" Pin it round your neck, and then it will be useful," said 
Laurie, looking down at the little blue boots, which he evidently 
approved of. 

Away they went, fleetly and gracefully ; for, having practised 
at home, they were well matched, and the(blithe/young couple 
were a pleasant sight to see, as they twirled merrily round and 
round, feeling more friendly than ever after their small tiff. 

" Laurie, I want you to do me a favor ; will you ? " said 
Meg, as he stood fanning her, when her breath gave out, which 
it did very soon, though she would not own why. 

" Won't I ! " said Laurie, with alacrity. 

" Please don't tell them at home about my dress to-night. 
They won't understand the joke, and it will worry mother." 

" Then why did you do it ? " said Laurie's eyes, so plainly 
that Meg hastily added, 

" I shall tell them, myself, all about it, and ' 'fess ' to mother 
how silly I Ve been. But I 'd Bather do it myself ; so you '11 
not tell, will you ? " 

" I' 11 give you my word I won't ; only what shall I say when 
they ask me ? " 

" Just say I looked pretty well, and was having a good time. 1 * 



LITTLE WOMEN 101 

" I 'W say the first, with all my heart ; but how about the 
other? You don't look as if you were having a good time; are 
you ? " and Laurie looked at her with an expression which 
made her answer, in a whisper, 

" No ; not just now. Don't think I 'm horrid ; I only wanted 
a little fun, but this sort does n't pay, I find, and I 'm getting 
tired of it." 

" Here comes Ned Moffat ; what does he want ? " said Laurie, 
knitting his black brows, as if he did not regard his young host 
in the light of a pleasant addition to the party. 

" He put his name down for three dances, and I suppose 
he's coming for them. What a bore ! " said Meg, assuming a 
languid air, which amused Laurie immensely. 

lie did not speak to her again till supper-time, when he saw 
her drinking champagne with Ned and his friend Fisher, who 
were behaving " like a pair of fools," as Laurie said to himself, 
for he felt a brotherly sort of right to watch over the Marches, 
and fight their battles whenever a defender was needed. 

" You '11 have a splitting headache to-morrow, if you drink 
much of that. I would n't, Meg ; your mother does n't like it, 
you know," he whispered, leaning over her chair, as Ned 
turned to refill her glass, and Fisher stooped to pick up her fan. 

" I 'm not Meg, to-night ; I 'm ' a doll,' who does all sorts of 
crazy things. To-morrow I shall put away my ' fuss and 
feathers,' and be desperately good again," she answered, with 
an affected little laugh. 

" Wish to-morrow was here, then," muttered Laurie, walking 
off, ill-pleased at the change he saw in her. 

Meg danced and flirted, chattered and giggled, as the other 
girls did ; after supper she undertook the German, and blundered 
through it, nearly upsetting her partner with her long skirt, 
and romping in a way that scandalized Laurie, who looked on 
and meditated a lecture. But he got no chance to deliver it, 
for Meg kept away from him till he came to say good-night. 

" Remember ! " she said, trying to smile, for the splitting head- 
ache had already begun. 



102 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Silence a la mort," replied Laurie, with a melodramatic 
flourish, as he went away. 

This little bit of by-play excited Annie's curiosity ; but Meg 
was too tired for gossip, and went to bed, feeling as if she had 
been to a masquerade, and had n't enjoyed herself as much as 
she expected. She was sick all the next day, and on Saturday 
went home, quite used up with her fortnight's fun, and feeling 
that she had " sat in the lap of luxury " long enough. 

" It does seem pleasant to be quiet, and not have company 
manners on all the time. Home is a nice place, though it is n't 
splendid," said Meg, looking about her with a restful expression, 
as she sat with her mother and Jo on the Sunday evening. 

" I 'm glad to hear you say so, dear, for I was afraid home 
would seem dull and poor to you, after your fine quarters," 
replied her mother, who had given her many anxious looks that 
day; for motherly eyes are quick to see any change in chil- 
dren's faces. 

Meg had told her adventures gayly, and said over and over 
what a charming time she had had ; but something still seemed 
to weigh upon her spirits, and, when the younger girls were 
gone to bed, she sat thoughtfully staring at the fire, saying little, 
and looking worried. As the clock struck nine, and Jo pro- 
posed bed, Meg suddenly left her chair, and, taking Beth's stool, 
leaned her elbows on her mother's knee, saying bravely, 

" Marmee, I want to ' 'fess.' " 

" I thought so; what is it, dear? " 

" Shall I go away ? " asked Jo discreetly. 

"Of course not; don't I always tell you everything? I was 
ashamed to speak of it before the children, but I want you to 
know all the dreadful things I did at the Moffats'." 

" We are prepared," said Mrs. March, smiling, but looking 
a little anxious. 

" I told you they dressed me up, but I did n't tell you that 
they powdered and squeezed and frizzled, and made me look 
like a fashion-plate. Laurie thought I was n't proper ; I know 
he did, though he did n't say so, and ^vne man called me ' a doll/ 



LITTLE WOMEN 103 

I knew it was silly, but they flattered me, and said I was a 
beauty, and quantities of nonsense, so I let them make a fool of 
me." 

"Is that all?" asked Jo, as Mrs. March looked silently at 
the downcast face of her pretty daughter, and could not find 
it in her heart to blame her little follies. 

" No ; I drank champagne and romped and tried to flirt, and 
was altogether abominable," said Meg self-reproachfully. 

" There is something more, I think ; " and Mrs. March 
smoothed the soft cheek, which suddenly grew rosy, as Meg 
answered slowly, 

" Yes ; it 's very silly, but I want to tell it, because I hate 
to have peoj>le say and think such things about us and Laurie." 

Then she told the various bits of gossip she had heard at 
the Moffats'; and, as she spoke, Jo saw her mother fold her 
lips tightly, as if ill pleased that such ideas should be put into 
Meg's innocent mind. 

" Well, if that is n't the greatest rubbish I ever heard," cried 
Jo indignantly. " Why did n't you pop out and tell them so, 
on the spot ? " 

" I could n't, it was so embarrassing for me. I could n't help 
hearing, at first, and then I was so angry and ashamed, I 
did n't remember that I ought to go away." 

" Just wait till / see Annie M off at, and I '11 show you how 
to settle such ridiculous stuff. The idea of having ' plans/ 
and being kind to Laurie, because he 's rich, and may marry 
us by and by! Won't he shout, when I tell him what those 
silly things say about us poor children ? " and Jo laughed, as 
if, on second thoughts, the thing struck her as a good joke. 

" If you tell Laurie, I '11 never forgive you ! She must n't, 
must she mother ? " said Meg, looking distressed. 

" No ; never repeat that foolish gossip, and forget it as soon 
as you can/' said Mrs. March gravely. " I was very unwise 
to let you go among people of whom I know so little, kind, 
I dare say, but worldly, ill-bred, and full of these vulgar ideas 



104 LITTLE WOMEN 

about young people. I am more sorry than I can express for 
the mischief this visit may have done you, Meg." 

" Don't be sorry, I won't let it hurt me ; I '11 forget all the 
bad, and remember only the good; for I did enjoy a great deal, 
and thank you very much for letting me go. I '11 not be senti- 
mental or dissatisfied, mother ; I know I 'm a silly little girl, 
and I '11 stay with you till I 'm fit to take care of myself. But 
it is nice to be praised and admired, and I can't help saying I 
like it," said Meg, looking half ashamed of the confession. 

" That is perfectly natural, and quite harmless, if the liking 
does not become a passion, and lead one to do foolish or un- 
maidenly things. Learn to know and value the praise which 
is worth having, and to excite the admiration of excellent people 
by being modest as well as pretty, Meg." 

Margaret sat thinking a moment, while Jo stood with her 
hands behind her, looking both interested and a little perplexed ; 
for it was a new thing to see Meg blushing and talking about 
admiration, lovers, and things of that sort; and Jo felt as if, 
during that fortnight, her sister had grown up amazingly, and 
was drifting away from her into a world where she could not 
follow. _ 

" Mother, do you have ' plans/ as Mrs. Moffat said ? " asked 
Meg bashfully. 

" Yes, my dear, I have a great many ; all mothers do, but 
mine differ somewhat from Mrs. Moffat's, I suspect. I will 
tell you some of them, for the time has come when a word 
may set this romantic little head and heart of yours right, on a 
very serious subject. You are young, Meg, but not too young 
to understand me; and mothers' lips are the fittest to speak of 
such things to girls like you. Jo, your turn will come in time, 
perhaps, so listen to my ' plans,' and help me carry them out, 
if they are good." 

Jo went and sat on one arm of the chair, looking as if she 
thought they were about to join in some very solemn affair. 
Holding a hand of each, and watching the two young faces 
wistfully, Mrs. March said, in her serious yet cheery way,- 



LITTLE WOMEN 105 

" I want tny daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and 
good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy 
youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleas- 
ant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees 
fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the 
best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman; and I 
sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. 
It is natural to think of it, Meg; right to hope and wait for it, 
and wise to prepare for it ; so that, when the happy time comes, 
you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy. My 
dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a 
dash in the world, marry^ nch__rrien merely .because Jbfiy are 
rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because 
love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing, and, 
when well used, a noble thing, but I never want you to 
think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I 'd rather see 
you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, 
than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace." 

" Poor girls don't stand any chance, Belle says, unless they 
put themselves forward," sighed Meg. 

" Then we '11 be old maids," said Jo stoutly. 

" Right, Jo; better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, 
or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands," said 
Mrs. March decidedly. " Don't be troubled, Meg ; poverty sel- 
dom daunts a sincere lover. Some of the best and most honored 
women I know were poor girls, but so love-worthy that they 
were not allowed to be old maids. Leave these things to time ; 
make this home happy, so that you may be fit for homes 
of your own, if they are offered you, and contented here if they 
are not. One thing remember, my girls: mother is always 
ready to be your confidant, father to be your friend ; and both 
of us trust and hope that our daughters, whether married or 
single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives." 

"We will, Marmee, we will!" cried both, with all their 
nearts, as she bade them good-night. 



io6 LITTLE WOMEN 

CHAPTER X. 

THE P. C. AND P. O. 

An spring came on, a new set of amusements became th?, 
fashion, and the lengthening days gave long afternoons for 
work and play of all sorts. The garden had to be put in order, 
and each sister had a quarter of the little plot to do what she 
liked with. Hannah used to say, " I 'd know which each of 
them gardings belonged to, ef I see 'em in Chiny ; " and so she 
might, for the girls' tastes differed as much as their characters. 
Meg's had roses and heliotrope, myrtle, and a little orange-tree 
in it. Jo's bed was never alike two seasons, for she was always 
trying experiments ; this year it was to be a plantation of sun- 
flowers, the seeds of which cheerful and aspiring plant were to 
feed " Aunt Cockle-top " and her family of chicks. Beth had 
old-fashioned, fragrant flowers in her garden, sweet peas and 
mignonette, larkspur, pinks, pansies, and southernwood, with 
chickweed for the bird, and catnip for the pussies. Amy had 
a bower in hers, rather small and earwiggy, but very pretty 
to look at, with honeysuckles and morning-glories hanging 
their colored horns and bells in graceful wreaths all over it; 
tall, white lilies, delicate ferns, and as many brilliant, picturesque 
plants as would consent to blossom there. 

Gardening, walks, rows on the river, and flower-hunts em- 
ployed the fine days; and for rainy ones, they had house di- 
versions, some old, some new, all more or less original. 
One of these was the " P. C." ; for, as secret societies were the 
fashion, it was thought proper to have one; and, as all of the 
girls admired Dickens, they called themselves the Pickwick 
Club. With a few interruptions, they had kept this up for a 
year, and met every Saturday evening in the big garret, on 
which occasions the ceremonies were as follows : Three chairs 
were arranged in a row before a table, on which was a lamp, 



LITTLE WOMEN 107 

also four white badges, with a big " P. C." in different colors 
on each, and the weekly newspaper, called " The Pickwick Port- 
folio," to which all contributed something; while Jo, who rev- 
elled in pens and ink, was the editor. At seven o'clock, the 
four members ascended to the club-room, tied their badges 
round their heads, and took their seats with great solemnity. 
Meg, as the eldest, was Samuel Pickwick ; Jo, being of a literary 
turn, Augustus Snodgrass; Beth because she was round and 
rosy, Tracy Tupman; and Amy, who was always trying to do 
what she could n't, was Nathaniel Winkle. Pickwick, the presi- 
dent, read the paper, which was filled with original tales, poetry, 
local news, funny advertisements, and hints, in which they 
good-naturedly reminded each other of their faults and short- 
comings. On one occasion, Mr. Pickwick put on a pair of spec- 
tacles without any glasses, rapped upon the table, hemmed, and, 
having stared hard at Mr. Snodgrass, who was tilting back in 
his chair, tUi he arranged himself properly, began to read: 



io8 



LITTLE WOMEN 



" 6e 



portfolio,' 



May 20, 1 8 



$oet'0 Cornet. 



ANNIVERSARY ODE. 



THE MASKED MARRIAGE. 

A TALE OF VENICE 



Again we meet to celebrate 
With badge and solemn rite, 

Our fifty-second anniversary, 
In Pickwick Hall, to-night. 

We all are here in perfect health, 
None gone from our small band; 

Again we see each well-known face, 
And press each friendly hand. 

Our Pickwick, always at his post, 

With reverence we greet, 
As, spectacles on nose, he reads 

Our well-filled weekly sheet. 

Although he suffers from a cold, 
We joy to hear him speak, 

For words of wisdom from him fall, 
In spite of croak or squeak. 

Old six-foot Snodgrass looms on high, 

With elephantine grace, 
And beams upon the company, 

With brown and jovial face. 

Poetic fire lights up his eye, 

He struggles 'gainst his lot. 
Behold ambition on his brow, 

And on his nose a blot! 

Next our peaceful Tupman comes, 

So rosy, plump, and sweet, 
Who chokes with laughter at the puns, 

And tumbles off his seat. 

Prim little Winkle too is here, 

With every hair in place, 
A model of propriety, 

Though he hates to wash his face. 

The year is gone, we still unite 
To joke and laugh and read, 

And tread the path of literature 
That doth to glory lead. 

Long may our paper prosper well, 

Our club unbroken be, 
And ccming years thrir blessings pour 

On tbe useful, gay " P. C." 

A. SNODGRASS. 



Gondola after gondola swept up to 
the marble steps, and left its lovely load 
to swell the brilliant throng that filled 
the stately halls of Count de Adelon 
Knights and ladies, elves and pages, 
monks and flower-girls, all mingled 
gaily in the dance. Sweet voices and 
rich melody filled the air; and so with 
mirth and music the masquerade went 
on. 

" Has your Highness seen the Lady 
Viola to-night? " asked a gallant trouba- 
dour of the fairy queen who floated 
down the hall upon his arm. 

" Yes ; is she not lovely, though so 
sad! Her dress is well chosen, too, for 
in a week she weds Count Antonio, 
whom she passionately hates." 

" By my faitJuJKenvy him. Yonder 
he comes, arrayed like a bridegroom, 
except the black mask. When that ia 
off we shall see how he regards the fair 
maid whose heart he cannot win, though 
her stern father bestows her hand," re- 
turned the troubadour. 

"'Tis whispered that she loves the 
young English artist who haunts her 
steps, and is spurned by the old count," 
said the lady, as they joined the dance. 

The revel was at its height when a 
priest appeared, and, withdrawing the 
young pair to an alcove hung with pur- 
ple velvet, he motioned them to kneel. 
Instant silence fell upon the gay throng; 
a*d not a sound, but the dash of foun- 
tains or the rustle of orange-groves 
sleeping in the moonlight, broke the 
hush as Count de Adelon spoke 
thus: 

^My lords and ladies, pardon the 
(tuse^by which I have gathered you here 
te-Wltness the marriage of my daughter. 
Father, we wait your services." 

All eyes turned toward the bridal 
party, and a low murmur of amazement 
went through the throng, for neither 
bride nor groom removed their masks. 
Curiosity and wonder possessed all 



LITTLE WOMEN 



109 



hearts, but respect restrained all tongues 
till the holy rite was over. Then the 
eager spectators gathered round the 
count, demanding an explanation. 

"Gladly would I give it if I could; 
but I only know that it was the whim 
of my timid Viola, and I yielded to it. 
Unmask, and receive my blessing." 

But neither bent the knee; for the 
young bridegroom replied, in a tone that 
startled all listeners, as the mask fell, 
disclosing the noble face of Ferdinand 
Devereux, the artist lover; and, leaning 
on the breast where now flashed the 
star of an English earl, was the lovely 
Viola radiant with joy and beauty. 

" My lord, you scornfully bade me 
claim your daughter when I could boast 
as high a name and vast a fortune as 
the Count Antonio. I can do more; for 
even your ambitious soul cannot refuse 
the Earl of Devereux and De Vere, 
when he gives his ancient name and 
boundless wealth in return for the be- 
loved hand of this fair lady, now my 
wife." 

The count stood like one changed to 
stone; and. turning to the bewildered 
crowd, Ferdinand added, with a gay 
smile of triumph, " To you, my gallant 
friends, I can only wish that your woo- 
ing may prosper as mine has done; and 
that you may all win as fair a bride as 
I have, by this masked marriage." 

S. PICKWICK. 



mashed some of it, with salt and butter, 
for dinner; and to the rest she added a 
pint of milk, two eggs, four spoons of 
sugar, nutmeg, and some crackers; put 
it in a deep dish, and baked it till it 
was brown and nice; and next day it 
was eaten by a family named March. 

T. TUPMAN. 



MR. PICKWICK, Sir: 

I address you upon the subject of sin 
the sinner I mean is a man named 
Winkle who makes trouble in h/s club 
by laughing and sometimes wont write 
Now, my children, let the play end. 
his piece in this fine paper I hope you 
will pardon his badness and let him send 
a French fable because he can't write 
out of his head as he has so many les- 
sons to do and no brains in future I 
will try to take time by the fetlock and 
prepare some work which will be all 
commy la fo that means all right I am 
in haste as it is nearly school time 

Yours respectably, N. WINKLE. 

[The above is a manly and handsome 
acknowledgment of past misdemeanors. 
If our young friend studied punctua- 
tion, it would be well.] 



Why is the P. C. like the Tower of 
Babel? It is full of unruly members. 



A SAD ACCIDENT. 






THE HISTORY OF A SQUASH 



Once upon a time a farmer planted a 
little seed in his garden, and after a 
while it sprouted and became a vine, 
and bore many squashes. One day in 
October, when they were ripe, he picked 
one and took it to market. A grocer- 
man bought and put it in his shop. 
That same morning, a little girl, in a 
brown hat and blue dress, with a round 
face and snub nose, went and bought it 
for her mother. She lugged it home, 
cut it up, and boiled it in the big pot; 



On Friday last, we were startled by a 
violent shock in our basement, followed 
by cries of distress. On rushing, in a 
body, to the cellar, we discovered our 
beloved President prostrate upon the 
floor, having tripped and fallen while 
getting wood for domestic purposes. A 
perfect scene of ruin met our eyes; for 
in his fall Mr. Pickwick had plunged his 
head and shoulders into a tub of water, 
upset a keg of soft soap upon his manly 
form, and torn his garments badly. On 
being removed from this perilous situa- 
tion, it was discovered that he had suf- 
fered no injury but several bruises; and, 
we are happy to add, is now doing well. 

ED. 



no 



LITTLE WOMEN 



THE PUBLIC BEREAVEMENT 

It is our painful duty to record 
the sudden and mysterious disap- 
pearance of our cherished friend, 
Mrs. Snowball Pat Paw. This 
lovely and beloved cat was the pet 
of a large circle of warm and admir- 
ing friends; for her beauty attracted 
all eyes, her graces and virtues en- 
deared her to all hearts, and her 
loss is deeply felt by the whole 
community. 

When last seen, she was sitting 
at the gate, watching the butcher's 
cart; and it is feared that some vil- 
lain, tempted by her charms, basely 
tole her. Weeks have passed, but 
no trace of her has been discov- 
ered; and we relinquish all hope, 
tie a black ribbon to her basket, set 
aside her dish, and weep for her as 
one lost to us forever. 



A sympathizing friend sends the fol- 
lowing gem: 



A LAMENT. 

FOR S. B. PAT PAW. 



We mourn the loss of our little pet, 
And sigh o'er her hapless fate, 

For never more by the fire she'll sit. 
Nor play by the old green gate. 

The little grave where her infant sleeps 

Is 'neath the chestnut tree; 
But o'er her grave we may not weep, 

We know not where it may be. 

Her empty bed, her idle ball, 

Will never see her more; 
No gentle tap, no loving purr 

Is heard at the parlor-door. 

Another cat comes after her mice, 

A cat with a dirty face; 
But she does not hunt as our darling 
did. 

Nor play with her airy grace. 

Her stealthy paws tread the very hall 
Where Snowball used to play, 

But the only spits at the dcgs our pet 
So gallantly drove away. 



She is useful and mild, and does her 

best. 

But she is not fair to see'. 
And we cannot give her your p.* ace, 

dear, 

Nor worship her as we worship thee. 

A. s. 



ADVERTISEMENTS. 



Miss ORANTHY BLUGGAGE, the accom- 
plished Strong-Minded Lecturer, will 
deliver her famous Lecture on " WO- 
MAN AND HER POSITION," at Pickwick 
Hall, next Saturday Evening, after tht 
usual performances. 

A WEEKLY MEETING will be held at 
Kitchen Place, to teach young ladies 
how to cook. Hannah Brown will pre- 
side; and all are invited to attend. 

THE DUSTPAN SOCIETY will meet on 
Wednesday next, and parade in the 
upper story of the Club House. All 
members to appear in uniform and 
shoulder their brooms at nine precisely. 

MRS. BETH BOUNCER will open her 
new assortment of Doll's Millinery next 
week. The latest Paris Fashions have 
arrived, and orders are respectfully so- 
licited. 

A NEW PLAY will appear at the Barn- 
ville Theatre, in the course of a few 
weeks, which will surpass anything ever 
seen on tLe American stage. " TH 
GREEK SLAVE, or Constantine the Aven- 
ger," is the name of this thrilling 
drama! ! ! 



HINTS. 

If S. P. didn't use so rm'ih soap on 
his hands, he wouldn't always be late at 
breakfast. A. S. is requested not to 
whistle in the street. T. T., please 
don't forget Amy's napkin. N. W. 
must not fret because his dress has not 
nine tucks. 



WEEKLY REPORT. 

Meg Geod. 

Jo Bad. 

Beth Very good. 

Amy Middling. 



LITTLE WOMEN in 

As the President finished reading the paper (which I beg 
leave, to-as^ure my readers is aAfoncTJufo copy of one written 
by bona fide girls once upon a time) , a round of applause fol- 
lowed, and then Mr. Snodgrass rose to make a proposition. 

" Mr. President and gentlemen/' he began, assuming a parlia- 
mentary attitude and tone, " I wish to propose the admission of 
a new member, one who highly deserves the honor, would 
be deeply grateful for it, and would add immensely to the spirit 
of the club, the literary value of the paper, and be no end jolly 
and nice. I propose Mr. Theodore Laurence as an honorary 
member of the P. C. Come now, do have him." 

Jo's sudden change of tone made the girls laugh; but all 
looked rather anxious, and no one said a word, as Snodgrass 
took his seat. 

" We '11 put it to vote," said the President. " All in favor 
of this motion please to manifest it by saying * Ay/ " 

A loud response from Snodgrass, followed, to everybody's 
surprise, by a timid one from Beth. 

" Contrary minded say ' No/ " 

Meg and Amy were contrary minded ; and Mr. Winkle rose 
to say, with great elegance, " We don't wish any boys ; they 
only joke and bounce about. This is a ladies club, and we 
wish to be private and proper." 

" I 'm afraid he '11 laugh at our paper, and make fun of us 
afterward," observed Pickwick, pulling the little curl on her 
forehead, as she always did when doubtful. 

Up rose Snodgrass, very much in earnest. " Sir, I give you 
my word as a gentleman, Laurie won't do anything of the sort. 
He likes to write, and he '11 give a tone to our contributions, 
and keep us from being sentimental, don't you see? We can 
do so little for him, and he does so much for us, I think the 
least we can do is to offer him a place here, and make him wel- 
come if he comes." 

This artful allusion to benefits conferred brought Tupman 
to his feet, looking as if he had quite made up his mind. 



112 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Yes, we ought to do it, even if we are afraid. I say he may 
come, and his grandpa, too, if he likes." 

This spirited burst from Beth electrified the club, and Jo 
left her seat to shake hands approvingly. " Now then, vote 
again. Everybody remember it 's (mr Laurie, 'and say ' Ay! ' ' 
cried Snodgrass excitedly. 

" Ay ! ay ! ay ! " replied three voices at once. 

" Good ! Bless you ! Now, as there 's nothing like ' taking 
time by the fetlock,' as Winkle characteristically observes, al- 
low me to present the new member ; " and, to the dismay of the 
rest of the club, Jo threw open the door of the closet, and dis- 
played Laurie sitting on a rag-bag, flushed and twinkling with 
suppressed laughter. 

" You rogue ! you traitor ! Jo, how could you ? " cried the 
three girls, as Snodgrass led her friend triumphantly forth; 
and, producing both a chair and a badge, installed him in a jiffy. 

" The coolness of you two rascals is amazing," began Mr. 
Pickwick, trying to get up an awful frown, and only succeeding 
in producing an amiable smile. But the new member was equal 
to the occasion; and, rising, with a grateful salutation to the 
Chair, said, in the most engaging manner, " Mr. President and 
ladies, I beg pardon, gentlemen, allow me to introduce 
myself as Sam Weller the very humble servant of the club." 

" Good ! good ! " cried Jo pounding with the handle of the old 
warming-pan on which she leaned. 

" My faithful friend and noble patron," continued Laurie, 
with a wave of the hand, " who has so flatteringly presented me, 
is not to be blamed for the base stratagem of to-night. I planned 
it, and she only gave in after lots of teasing." 

" Come now, don't lay it all on yourself ; you know I pro- 
posed the cupboard," broke in Snodgrass, who was enjoying the 
joke amazingly. 

" Never you mind what she says. I 'm the wretch that did 
it, sir," said the new member, with a Welleresque nod to Mr. 
Pickwick. " But on my honor, I never will do so again, and 
henceforth dewote myself to the interest of this immortal club." 



LITTLE WOMEN 113 

" Hear ! hear ! " cried Jo, clashing the lid of the warming-pan 
like a cymbal. 

"Go on, go on!" added Winkle and Tupman, while the 
President bowed benignly. 

" I merely wish to say, that as a slight token of my gratitude 
for the honor done me, and as a means of promoting friendly 
relations between adjoining nations, I have set up a post-office 
in the hedge in the lower corner of the garden ; a fine, spacious 
building, with padlocks on the doors, and every convenience for 
the mails, also the females, if I may be allowed the expres- 
sion. It 's the old martin-house ; but I Ve stopped up the door, 
and made the roof open, so it will hold all sorts of things, and 
save our valuable time. Letters, manuscripts, books, and 
bundles can be passed in there ; and, as each nation has a key, 
it will be uncommonly nice, I fancy. Allow me to present the 
club key ; and, with many thanks for your favor, take my seat." 

Great applause as Mr. Weller deposited a little key on the 
table, and subsided ; the warming-pan clashed and waved wildly, 
and it was some time before order could be restored. A long 
discussion followed, and every one came out surprising, for 
every one did her best; so it was an unusually lively meeting, 
and did not adjourn till a late hour, when it broke up with three 
shrill cheers for the new member. No one ever regretted the 
admittance of Sam Weller, for a more devoted, well-behaved, 
and jovial member no club could have. He certainly did add 
" spirit " to the meetings, and " a tone " to the paper ; for his 
orations convulsed his hearers, and his contributions were ex- 
cellent, being patriotic, classical, comical, or dramatic, but never 
sentimental. Jo regarded them as worthy of Bacon, Milton, 
or Shakespeare ; and remodelled her own works with good effect, 
she thought. 

The P. O. was a capital little institution, and flourished won- 
derfully, for nearly as many queer things passed through it as 
through the real office. Tragedies and cravats, poetry and 
pickles, garden-seeds and long letters, music and gingerbread, 
rubbers, invitations, scoldings and puppies. The old gentleman 



114 LITTLE WOMEN 

liked the fun, and amused himself by sending odd bundles, mys- 
terious messages, and funny telegrams ; and his gardener, who 
was smitten with Hannah's charms, actually sent a love-letter 
to Jo's care. How they laughed when the secret came out, 
never dreaming how many love-letters that little post-office 
would hold in the years to come ! 



CHAPTER XI. 

EXPERIMENTS. 

" THE first of June ! The Kings are off to the seashore to- 
morrow, and I 'm free. Three months' vacation, how I shall 
enjoy it ! " exclaimed Meg, coming home one warm day to find 
Jo laid upon the sofa in an unusual state of exhaustion, while 
Beth took off her dusty boots, and Amy made lemonade for 
the refreshment of the whole party. 

" Aunt March went to-day, for which, oh, be joyful ! " said 
Jo. "I was mortally afraid she'd ask me to go with her; if 
she had, I should have felt as if I ought to do it ; but Plumfield 
is about as gay as a churchyard, you know, and I 'd rather be 
excused. We had a flurry getting the old lady off, and I had 
a fright every time she spoke to me, for I was in such a hurry 
to be through that I was uncommonly helpful and sweet, and 
feared she 'd find it impossible to part from me. I quaked till 
she was fairly in the carriage, and had a final fright, for, as it 
drove off, she popped out her head, saying, ' Josyphine, won't 
you ? ' I did n't hear any more, for I basely turned and 
fled; I did actually run, and whisked round the corner, where 
I felt safe." 

" Poor old Jo ! she came in looking as if bears were after her," 
said Beth, as she cuddled her sister's feet with a motherly air. 

" Aunt March is a regular samphire, is she not ? " observed 
A.my, tasting her mixture critically. 

" She means vampire, not sea- weed ; but it does n't matter ; 



LITTLE WOMEN 11.5 

it 's too warm to be particular about one's parts of speech," 
murmured Jo. 

" What shall you do all your vacation ? " asked Amy, chang- 
ing the subject, with tact. 

" I shall lie abed late, and do nothing," replied Meg, from the 
depths of the rocking-chair. " I 've been routed up early all 
winter, and had to spend my days working for other people ; so 
now I 'm going to rest and revel to my heart's content." 

" No," said Jo ; " that dozy way would n't suit me. I Ve 
laid in a heap of books, and I 'm going to improve my shining 
hours reading on my perch in the old apple-tree, when I 'm not 
having 1 " 

" Don't say ' larks ! ' " implored Amy, as a return snub for 
the " samphire " correction. 

" I '11 say ' nightingales,' then, with Laurie ; that 's proper and 
appropriate since he 's a warbler." 

" Don't let us do any lessons, Beth, for a while, but play 
all the time, and rest, as the girls mean to," proposed Amy. 

" Well, I will, if mother does n't mind. I want to learn some 
new songs, and my children need fitting up for the summer; 
they are dreadfully out of order, and really suffering for 
clothes." 

" May we, mother ? " asked Meg, turning to Mrs. March, 
who sat sewing, in what they called " Marmee's corner." 

" You may try your experiment for a week, and see how you 
like it. I think by Saturday night you will find that all play 
and no work is as bad as all work and no play." 

" Oh, dear, no ! it will be delicious, I 'm sure," said Meg com- 
placently. 

" I now propose a toast as my 'friend and pardner, Sairy 
Gamp,' says. Fun forever, and no grubbing ! " cried Jo, rising 
glass in hand, as the lemonade went round. 

They all drank it merrily, and began the experiment by 
lounging for the rest of the day. Next morning, Meg did not 
appear till ten o'clock ; her solitary breakfast did not taste nice, 
and the room seemed lonely and untidy; for Jo had not filled 



Ii6 LITTLE WOMEN 

the vases, Beth had not dusted, and Amy's books lay scattered 
about. Nothing was neat and pleasant but " Marmee's corner." 
which looked as usual and there Meg sat, to " rest and read," 
which meant yawn, and imagine what pretty summer dresses 
she would get with her salary. Jo spent the morning on the 
river, with Laurie, and the afternoon reading and crying over 
" The Wide, Wide World," up in the apple-tree. Beth began 
by rummaging everything out of the big closet where her family 
resided ; but, getting tired before half done, she left her estab- 
lishment topsy-turvy, and went to her music, rejoicing that she 
had no dishes to wash. Amy arranged her bower, put on her 
best white frock, smoothed her curls, and sat down to draw, 
under the honeysuckles, hoping some one would see and inquire 
who the young artist was. As no one appeared but an inquisi- 
tive daddy-long-legs, who examined her work with interest, she 
went to walk, got caught in a shower, and came home dripping. 
At tea-time they compared notes, and all agreed that it had 
been a delightful, though unusually long day. Meg, who went 
shopping in the afternoon, and got a " sweet blue muslin," had 
discovered after she had cut the breadths off, that it would n't 
wash, which mishap made her slightly cross. Jo had burnt the 
skin off her nose boating, and got a raging headache by reading 
too long. Beth was worried by the confusion of her closet, and 
the difficulty of learning three or four songs at once ; and Amy 
deeply regretted the damage done her frock, for Katy Brown's 
party was to be the next day ; and now, like Flora McFlimsey, 
she had " nothing to wear." But these were mere trifles ; and 
they assured their mother that the experiment was working 
finely. She smiled, said nothing, and, with Hannah's help, did 
their neglected work, keeping home pleasant and the domestic 
machinery running smoothly. It was astonishing what a 
peculiar and uncomfortable state of things was produced by the 
" resting and revelling " process. The days kept getting longer 
and longer; the weather was unusually variable, and so were 
tempers; an unsettled feeling possessed every one, and Satan 
found plenty of mischief for the idle hands to do. As the 



LITTLE WOMEN 117 

height of luxury, Meg put out some of her sewing, and then 
found time hang so heavily that she fell to snipping and spoil- 
ing her clothes, in her attempts to furbish them up a la Moffat. 
Jo read till her eyes gave out, and she was sick of books ; got so 
fidgety that even good-natured Laurie had a quarrel with her, 
and so reduced in spirits that she desperately wished she had 
gone with Aunt March. Beth got on pretty well, for she was 
constantly forgetting that it was to be all play, and no work, and 
fell back into her old ways now and then ; but something in the 
air affected her, and, more than once, her tranquility was much 
disturbed ; so much so, that, on one occasion, she actually shook 
poor dear Joanna, and told her she was " a fright." Amy fared 
worst of all, for her resources were small ; and when her sisters 
left her to amuse and care for herself she soon found that ac- 
complished and important little self a great burden. She did n't 
like dolls, fairy-tales were childish, and one could n't draw all 
the time ; tea-parties did n't amount to much, neither did picnics, 
unless very well conducted. "If one could have a fine house, 
full of nice girls, or go travelling, the summer would be de- 
lightful; but to stay at home with three selfish sisters and a 
grown-up boy was enough to try the patience of a Boaz," com- 
plained Miss Malaprop, after several days devoted to pleasure, 
fretting, and ennui. 

No one would own that they were tired of the experiment; 
but by Friday night, each acknowledged to herself that she was 
glad the week was nearly done. Hoping to impress the lesson 
more deeply, Mrs. March, who had a good deal of humor, re- 
solved to finish off the trial in an appropriate manner ; so she 
gave Hannah a holiday, and let the girls enjoy the full effect of 
the play system. 

When they got up on Saturday morning, there was no fire 
in the kitchen, no breakfast in the dining-room, and no mother 
anywhere to be seen. 

" Mercy on us ! what has happened? " cried Jo, staring about 
her in dismay. 



Ii8 LITTLE WOMEN 

Meg ran upstairs, and soon came back again, looking re- 
lieved, but rather bewildered, and a little ashamed. 

" Mother is n't sick, only very tired, and she says she is going 
to stay quietly in her room all day, and let us do the best we 
can. It 's a very queer thing for her to do, she does n't act a 
bit like herself ; but she says it has been a hard week for her, 
so we must n't grumble, but take care of ourselves/' 

" That 's easy enough, and I like the idea ; I 'm aching for 
something to do that is, some new amusement, you know," 
added Jo quickly. 

In fact it was an immense relief to them all to have a little 
work, and they took hold with a will, but soon realized the 
truth of Hannah's saying, " Housekeeping ain't no joke." 
There was plenty of food in the larder, and while Beth and 
Amy set the table, Meg and Jo got breakfast, wondering, as 
they did so, why servants ever talked about hard work. 

" I shall take some up to mother, though she said we were 
not to think of her, for she 'd take care of herself," said Meg, 
who presided and felt quite matronly behind the teapot. 

So a tray was fitted out before anyone began, and taken up, 
with the cook's compliments. The boiled tea was very bitter, 
the omelette scorched, and the biscuits speckled with saleratus ; 
but Mrs. March received her repast with thanks, and laughed 
heartily over it after Jo was gone. 

" Poor little souls, they will have a hard time, I 'm afraid ; 
but they won't suffer, and it will do them good," she said 
producing the more palatable viands with which she had pro- 
vided herself, and disposing of the bad breakfast, so that their 
feelings might not be hurt, a motherly little deception, for 
which they were grateful. 

Many were the complaints below, and great the chagrin of the 
head cook at her failures. " Never mind, I '11 get the dinner, 
and be servant ; you be mistress, keep your hands nice, see com- 
pany, and give orders," said Jo, who knew still less than Meg 
about culinary affairs. 

This obliging offer was gladly accepted; and Margaret re- 



LITTLE WOMEN iig 

tired to the parlor, which she hastily put in order by whisking 
the litter under the sofa, and shutting the blinds, to save the 
trouble of dusting. Jo, with perfect faith in her own powers, 
and a friendly desire to make up the quarrel, immediately put a 
note in the office, inviting Laurie to dinner. 

" You 'd better see what you have got before you think of 
having company," said Meg, when informed of the hospitable 
but rash act. 

" Oh, there 's corned beef and plenty of potatoes ; and I 
shall get some asparagus, and a lobster, ' for a relish/ as 
Hannah says. We '11 have lettuce, and make a salad. I don't 
know how, but the book tells. I '11 have blanc-mange and 
strawberries for dessert ; and coffee, too, if you want to be ele- 
gant." 

" Don't try too many messes, Jo, for you can't make any- 
thing but gingerbread and molasses candy, fit to eat. I wash 
my hands of the dinner-party ; and, since you have asked Laurie 
on your own responsibility, you may just take care of him." 

" I don't want you to do anything but be civil to him, and 
help with the pudding. You'll give me your advice if I get in 
a muddle, won't you ? " asked Jo, rather hurt. 

" Yes ; but I don't know much, except about bread, and a 
few trifles. You had better ask mother's leave before you order 
anything," returned Meg prudently. 

" Of course I shall ; I 'm not a fool," and Jo went off in a 
huff at the doubts expressed of her powers. 

" Get what you like, and don't disturb me ; I 'm going out 
to dinner, and can't worry about things at home," said Mrs. 
March, when Jo spoke to her. " I never enjoyed housekeeping, 
and I 'm going to take a vacation to-day, and read, write, go 
visiting, and amuse myself." 

The unusual spectacle of her busy mother rocking com- 
fortably, and reading, early in the morning, made Jo feel as if 
some unnatural phenomenon had occurred; for an eclipse, an 
earthquake, or a volcanic eruption would hardly have seemed 
stranger 



120 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Everything is out of sorts, somehow," she said to herself, 
going downstairs. " There 's Beth crying ; that 's a sure sign 
that something is wrong with this family. If Amy is bothering, 
I '11 shake her." 

Feeling very much out of sorts herself, Jo hurried into the 
parlor to find Beth sobbing over Pip, the canary, who lay dead 
in the cage, with his little claws pathetically extended, as if 
imploring the food for want of which he had died. 

" It's all my fault I forgot him there is n't a seed or a 
drop left. O Pip ! O Pip ! how could I be so cruel to you ? " 
cried Beth, taking the poor thing in her hands, and trying to 
restore him. 

Jo peeped into his half -open eye, felt his little heart, and 
finding him stiff and cold, shook her head, and offered her 
domino-box for a coffin. 

" Put him in the oven, and maybe he will get warm and 
revive," said Amy hopefully. 

" He's been starved, and he sha'n't be baked, now he 's dead. 
I '11 make him a shroud, and he shall be buried in the garden ; 
and I '11 never have another bird, never, my Pip ! for I am too 
bad to own one," murmured Beth, sitting on the floor with 
her pet folded in her hands. 

" The funeral shall be this afternoon, and we will all go. 
Now, don't cry, Bethy ; it 's a pity, but nothing goes right this 
week, and Pip has had the worst of the experiment. Make 
the shroud, and lay him in my box; and, after the dinner- 
party, we '11 have a nice little funeral," said Jo, beginning to 
feel as if she had undertaken a good deal. 

Leaving the others to console Beth, she departed to the 
kitchen, which was in a most discouraging state of confusion. 
Putting on a big apron, she fell to work, and got the dishes 
piled up ready for washing, when she discovered that the fire 
was out. 

" Here 's a sweet prospect ! " muttered Jo, slamming the 
stove-door open, and poking vigorously among the cinders. 

Having rekindled the fire, she thought she would go to market 



LITTLE WOMEN 121 

while the water heated. The walk revived her spirits; and, 
flattering herself that she had made good bargains, she trudged 
home again, after buying a very young lobster, some very old 
asparagus, and two boxes of acid strawberries. By the time 
she got cleared up, the dinner arrived, and the stove was red- 
hot. Hannah had left a pan of bread to rise, Meg had worked 
it up early, set it on the hearth for a second rising, and for- 
gotten it. Meg was entertaining Sallie Gardiner in the parlor, 
when the door flew open, and a floury, crocky, flushed, and dis- 
hevelled figure appeared, demanding tartly, 

" I say, is n't bread ' riz ' enough when it runs over the 
pans?" 

Sallie began to laugh; but Meg nodded, and lifted her eye- 
brows as high as they would go, which caused the apparition to 
vanish, and put the sour bread into the oven without further 
delay. Mrs. March went out, after peeping here and there to 
see how matters went, also saying a word of comfort to Beth, 
who sat making a winding-sheet, while the dear departed lay 
in state in the domino box. A strange sense of helplessness 
fell upon the girls as the gray bonnet vanished round the cor* 
ner; and despair seized them, when, a few minutes later, Miss 
Crocker appeared, and said she 'd come to dinner. Now, this 
lady was a thin, yellow spinster, with a sharp nose and inquisi- 
tive eyes, who saw everything, and gossiped about all she saw. 
They disliked her, but had been taught to be kind to her, simply 
because she was old and poor, and had few friends. So Meg 
gave her the easy-chair, and tried to entertain her, while she 
asked questions, criticised everything, and told stories of the 
people whom she knew. 

Language cannot describe the anxieties, experiences, and 
exertions which Jo underwent that morning ; and the dinner she 
served up became a standing joke. Fearing to ask any more 
advice, she did her best alone, and discovered that some- 
thing more than energy and good-will is necessary to make a 
cook. She boiled the asparagus for an hour, and was grieved 
to find the heads cooked off and the stalks harder than ever. 



122 LITTLE WOMEN 

The bread burnt black ; for the salad-dressing so aggravated her. 
that she let everything else go till she had convinced herselt 
that she could not make it fit to eat. The lobster was a scarlet 
mystery to her, but she hammered and poked, till it was un- 
shelled, and its meagre proportions concealed in a grove of 
lettuce-leaves. The potatoes had to be hurried, not to keep the 
asparagus waiting, and were not done at last. The blanc-mange 
was lumpy, and the strawberries not as ripe as they looked, hav- 
ing been skilfully " deaconed." 

" Well, they can eat beef, and bread and butter, if they are 
hungry ; only it 's mortifying to have to spend your whole 
morning for nothing," thought Jo, as she rang the bell half 
an hour later than usual, and stood, hot, tired, and dispirited, 
surveying the feast spread for Laurie, accustomed to all sorts 
of elegance, and Miss Crocker, whose curious eyes would mark 
all failures, and whose tattling tongue would report them far 
and wide. 

Poor Jo would gladly have gone under the table, as one thing 
after another was tasted and left; while Amy giggled, Meg 
looked distressed, Miss Crocker pursed up her lips, and Laurie 
talked and laughed with all his might, to give a cheerful tone 
to the festive scene. Jo's one strong point was the fruit, for 
she had sugared it well, and had a pitcher of rich cream to eat 
with it. Her hot cheeks cooled a trifle, and she drew a long 
breath, as the pretty glass plates went round, and every one 
looked graciously at the little rosy islands floating in a sea of 
cream. Mrs. Crocker tasted first, made a wry face, and drank 
same water hastily. Jo, who had refused, thinking there might 
not be enough, for they dwindled sadly after the picking over, 
glanced at Laurie, but he was eating away manfully, though 
there was a slight pucker about his mouth, and he kept his eye 
fixed on his plate. Amy, who was fond of delicate fare, took 
a heaping spoonful, choked, hid her face in her napkin, and 
left the table precipitately. 

" Oh, what is it ? " exclaimed Jo, trembling. 



LITTLE WOMEN 123 

" Salt instead of sugar, and the cream is sour," replied Meg, 
with a tragic gesture. 

Jo uttered a groan, and fell back in her chair; remembering 
that she had given a last hasty powdering to the berries out of 
the two boxes on the kitchen table, and had neglected to put the 
milk in the refrigerator. She turned scarlet, and was on the 
verge of crying, when she met Laurie's eyes, which would look 
merry in spite of his heroic efforts; the comical side of the 
affair suddenly struck her, and she laughed till the tears ran 
down her cheeks. So did every one else, even "Croaker," as 
tBe^^irls- ealted: the old lady; and the unfortunate dinner ended 
gayly, with bread and butter, olives and fun. 

" I have n't strength of mind enough to clear up now, so we 
will sober ourselves with a funeral," said Jo, as they rose ; and 
Miss Crocker made ready to go, being eager to tell the new 
story at another friend's dinner table. 

They did sober themselves, for Beth's sake; Laurie dug a 
grave under the ferns in the grove, little Pip was laid in with 
many tears, by his tender-hearted mistress, and covered with 
moss, while a wreath of violets and chickweed was hung on the 
stone which bore his epitaph, composed by Jo, while she 
struggled with the dinner : 

" Here lies Pip March, 

Who died the 7th of June; 
Loved and lamented sore, 
And not forgotten soon." 

At the conclusion of the ceremonies, Beth retired to her 
room, overcome with emotion and lobster; but there was no 
place of repose, for the beds were not made, and she found her 
grief much assuaged by beating up pillows and puttings things 
in order. Meg helped Jo clear away the remains of the feast, 
which took half the afternoon, and left them so tired that they 
agreed to be contented with tea and toast for supper. Laurie 
took Amy to drive, which was a deed of charity, for the sour 
cream seemed to have had a bad effect upon her temper. Mrs. 



I2 4 LITTLE WOMEN 

March came home to find the three older girls hard at work in 
the middle of the afternoon ; and a glance at the closet gave her 
an idea of the success of one part of the experiment. 

Before the housewives could rest, several people called, and 
there was a scramble to get ready to see them; then tea must 
be got, errands done ; and one or two necessary bits of sewing 
neglected till the last minute. As twilight fell, dewy and still, 
one by one they gathered in the porch where the June roses were 
budding beautifully, and each groaned or sighed as she sat 
down, as if tired or troubled. 

" What a dreadful day this has been ! " began Jo, usually the 
first to speak. 

" It has seemed shorter than usual, but so uncomfortable," 
said Meg. 

" Not a bit like home," added Amy. 

" It can't seem so without Marmee and little Pip," sighed 
Beth, glancing, with full eyes, at the empty cage above her head. 

" Here's mother, dear, and you shall have another bird to- 
morrow, if you want it." 

As she spoke, Mrs. March came and took her place among 
them, looking as if her holiday had not been much pleasanter 
than theirs. 

"Are you satisfied with your experiment, girls, or do yor 
want another week of it ? " she asked, as Beth nestled up to her, 
and the rest turned toward her with brightening faces, as 
flowers turn toward the sun. 

" I don't! " cried Jo decidedly. 

" Nor I," echoed the others. 

" You think, then, that it is better to have a few duties, and 
live a little for others, do you ? " 

" Lounging and larking does n't pay," observed Jo, shaking 
her head. " I 'm tired of it, and mean to go to work at some- 
thing right off." 

" Suppose you learn plain cooking ; that 's a useful accom- 
plishment, which no woman should be without," said Mrs. 
March, laughing inaudibly at the recollection of Jo's dinner-- 



LITTLE WOMEN 125 

party; for she had met Miss Crocker, and heard her account 
of it 

" Mother, did you go away and let everything be, just to 
see how we 'd get on ? " cried Meg, who had had suspicions 
all day. 

" Yes ; I wanted you to see how the comfort of all depends 
on each doing her share faithfully. While Hannah and I did 
your work, you got on pretty well, though I don't think you 
were very happy or amiable ; so I thought, as a little lesson, L 
would show you what happens when every one thinks only of 
herself. Don't you feel that it is pleasanter to help one another, 
to have daily duties which make' leisure sweet when it comes, and 
to bear and forbear, that home may be comfortable and lovely 
to us all?" 

" We do, mother, we do ! " cried the girls. 

" Then let me advise you to take up your little burdens again ; 
for though they seem heavy sometimes, they are good for us, 
and lighten as we learn to carry them. Work is wholesome, and 
there is plenty for every one ; it keeps us from ennui and mis- 
chief, is good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of 
power and independence better than money or fashion." 

" We '11 work like bees, and love it too ; see if we don't ! " 
said Jo. "I '11 learn plain cooking for my holiday task ; and 
the next dinner-party I have shall be a success." 

" I '11 make the set of shirts for father, instead of letting you 
do it, Marmee. I can and I will, though I 'm not fond of sew- 
ing ; that will be better than fussing over my own things, which 
are plenty nice enough as they are," said Meg. 

" I '11 do my lessons every day, and not spend so much time 
with my music and dolls. I am a stupid thing, and ought to be 
studying, not playing," was Beth's resolution; while Amy fol- 
lowed their example by heroically declaring, " I shall learn to 
make buttonholes, and attend to my parts of speech." 

" Very good ! then I am quite satisfied with the experiment, 
and fancy that we shall not have to repeat it ; only don't go to the 
other extreme, and delve like slaves. Have regular hours for 



126 LITTLE WOMEN j 

work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and ) 
prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it 
well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few 
regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite of poverty." 
" We '11 remember, mother ! " and they did. 



CHAPTER XII. 

CAMP LAURENCE. 

BETH was post-mistress, for, being most at home, she could 
attend to it regularly, and dearly liked the daily task of unlock- 
ing the little door and distributing the mail. One July day 
she came in with her hands full, and went about the house leav- 
ing letters and parcels, like the penny post. 

" Here 's your posy, mother ! Laurie never forgets that," 
she said, putting the fresh nosegay in the vase that stood in 
" Marmee's corner," and was kept supplied by the affectionate 
boy. 

" Miss Meg March, one letter and a glove," continued Beth, 
delivering the articles to her sister, who sat near her mother, 
stitching wristbands. 

"Why, I left a pair over there, and here is only one," said 
Meg, looking at the gray cotton glove. 

" Did n't you drop the other in the garden ? " 

" No, I 'm sure I did n't ; for there was only one in the office." 

" I hate to have odd gloves ! Never mind, the other may be 
found. My letter is only a translation of the German song I 
wanted; I think Mr. Brooke did it, for that isn't Laurie's 
writing." 

Mrs. March glanced at Meg, who was looking very pretty in 
her gingham morning-gown, with the little curls blowing about 
her forehead, and very womanly, as she sat sewing at her little 
work-table, full of tidy white rolls; so unconscious of the 
thought in her mother's mind as she sewed and sung, while 



LITTLE WOMEN 127 

tier fingers flew, and her thoughts were busied with girlish 
t'ancies as innocent and fresh as the pansies in her belt, that 
Mrs. March smiled, and was satisfied. 

" Two letters for Doctor Jo, a book, and a funny old hat, 
which covered the whole post-office, stuck outside," said Beth, 
laughing, as she went into the study where Jo sat writing. 

" What a sly fellow Laurie is ! I said I wished bigger hats 
were the fashion, because I burn my face every hot day. He 
said, ' Why mind the fashion ? Wear a big hat, and be com- 
fortable ! ' I said I would if I had one, and he has sent me this, 
to try me. I '11 wear it, for fun, and show him I don't care for 
the fashion " ; and, hanging the antique broad-brim on a bust of 
Plato, Jo read her letters. 

One from her mother made her cheeks glow and her eyes 
fill, for it said to her, 

" MY DEAR : 

" I write a little word to tell you with how much satisfaction 
I watch your efforts to control your temper. You say nothing 
about your trials, failures, or successes, and think, perhaps, that 
no one sees them but the Friend whose help you daily ask, if 
I may trust the well-worn cover of your guide-book. I, too, 
have seen them all, and heartily believe in the sincerity of your 
resolution, since it begins to bear fruit. Go on, dear, patiently 
and bravely, and always believe that no one sympathizes more 
tenderly with you than your loving 

" MOTHER." 

"That does me good! that's worth millions of money and 
pecks of praise. O Marmee, I do try ! I will keep on trying, 
and not get tired, since I have you to help me." 

Laying her head on her arms, Jo wet her little romance with 
a few happy tears, for she had thought that no one saw and 
appreciated her efforts to be good; and this assurance was 
doubly precious, doubly encouraging, because unexpected, and 
from the person whose commendation she most valued. Feel- 
ing stronger than ever to meet and subdue her Apollyon, she 



128 LITTLE WOMEN 

pinned the note inside her frock, as a shield and a reminder, 
lest she be taken unaware, and proceeded to open her other let- 
ter, quite ready for either good or bad news. In a big, dashing 
hand, Laurie wrote, 

"Dear Jo, 
What ho ! 

Some English girls and boys are coming to see me to-morrow 
and I want to have a jolly time. If it 's fine, I 'm going to pitch 
my tent in Longmeadow, and row up the whole crew to lunch 
and croquet, have a fire, make messes, gypsy fashion, and 
all sorts of larks. They are nice people, and like such things. 
Brooke will go, to keep us boys steady, and Kate Vaughn will 
play propriety for the girls. I want you all to come ; can't let 
Beth off, at any price, and nobody shall worry her. Don't 
bother about rations, I '11 see to that, and everything else, 
only do come, there 's a good fellow ! 

" In a tearing hurry, 
Yours ever, LAURIE." 

" Here's richness ! " cried Jo, flying in to tell the news to 
Meg. 

"Of course we can go, mother ? it will be such a help to 
Laurie, for I can row, and Meg see to the lunch, and the chil- 
dren be useful in some way." 

" I hope the Vaughns are not fine, grown-up people. Do 
you know anything about them, Jo ? " asked Meg. 

" Only that there are four of them. Kate is older than you, 
Fred and Frank (twins) about my age, and a little girl (Grace), 
who is nine or ten. Laurie knew them abroad, and liked the 
boys; I fancied, from the way he primmed up his mouth in 
speaking of her, that he did n't admire Kate much." 

" I 'm so glad my French print is clean ; it 's just the thing, 
and so becoming ! " observed Meg complacently. " Have you 
anything decent, Jo ? " 

" Scarlet and gray boating suit, good enough for me. I shall 



LITTLE WOMEN 129 

row and tramp about, so I don't want any starch to think of. 
You'll come, Betty?" 

" If you won't let any of the boys talk to me." 

"Not a boy!" 

" I like to please Laurie ; and I 'm not afraid of Mr. Brooke, 
he is so kind ; but I don't want to play, or sing, or say anything. 
I '11 work hard, and not trouble any one ; and you '11 take care 
of me, Jo, so I '11 go." 

" That 's my good girl ; you do try to fight off your shyness, 
and I love you for it. Fighting faults is n't easy, as I know ; 
and a cheery word kind of gives a lift. Thank you mother," 
and Jo gave the thin cheek a grateful kiss, more precious to 
Mrs. March than if it had given back the rosy roundness of 
her youth. 

" I had a box of chocolate drops, and the picture I wanted 
to copy," said Amy, showing her mail. 

" And I got a note from Mr. Laurence, asking me to come 
over and play to him to-night, before the lamps are lighted, and 
I shall go," added Beth, whose friendship with the old gentle- 
man prospered finely. 

" Now let 's fly round, and do double duty to-day, so that we 
can play to-morrow with free minds," said Jo, preparing to 
replace her pen with a broom. 

When the sun peeped into the girls' room early next morn- 
ing, to promise them a fine day, he saw a comical sight. Each 
had made such preparation for the fete as seemed necessary 
and proper. Meg had an extra row of little curl-papers across 
her forehead, Jo had copiously anointed her afflicted face with 
cold cream. Beth had taken Joanna to bed with her 
to atone for the approaching separation, and Amy had 
capped the climax by putting a clothes-pin on her nose, to up- 
lift the offending feature. It was one of the kind artists use to 
hold the paper on their drawing-boards, therefore quite appro- 
priate and effective for the purpose to which it was now put. 
This funny spectacle appeared to amuse the sun, for he burst 



130 LITTLE WOMEN 

out with such radiance that Jo woke up, and roused all hei 
sisters by a hearty laugh at Amy's ornament. 

Sunshine and laughter were good omens ior a pleasure party 
and soon a lively bustle began in both houses. Beth, who iva? 
ready first, kept reporting what went on next door, and en- 
livened her sisters' toilets by frequent telegrams from the 
window. 

" There goes the man with the tent ! I see Mrs. Barker 
doing up the lunch in a hamper and a great basket. Now Mr. 
Laurence is looking up at the sky, and the weathercock ; I wish 
he would go, too. There 's Laurie, looking like a sailor, nice 
boy ! Oh, mercy me ! here 's a carriage full of people a tall 
lady, a little girl, and two dreadful boys. One is lame; poor 
thing, he 's got a crutch. Laurie did n't tell us that. Be quick 
girls! it's getting late. Why, there is Ned Moffat, I do de- 
clare. Look, Meg, is n't that the man who bowed to you one 
day, when we were shopping ? " 

" So it is. How queer that he should come. I thought he 
was at the Mountains. There is Sallie ; I 'm glad she got back 
in time. Am I all right, Jo ? " cried Meg, in a flutter. 

" A regular daisy. Hold up your dress and put your hat 
straight; it looks sentimental tipped that way, and will fly off 
at the first puff. Now, then, come on ! " 

" O Jo, you are not going to wear that awful hat ? It 's too 
absurd ! You shall not make a guy of yourself," remonstrated 
Meg, as Jo tied down, with a red ribbon, the broad-brimmed, 
old-fashioned Leghorn Laurie had sent for a joke. 

f*^ " P ^ 

" I just will, though, foriit 's capital] so shady, light, and 
big. It will make fun ; and I don't "mind being a guy if I 'm 
comfortable." With that Jo marched straight away, and the 
rest followed, a bright little band of sisters, all looking their 
best, in summer suits, with happy faces under the jaunty hat- 
brims. 

Laurie ran to meet, and present them to his friends, in the 
most cordial manner. The lawn was the reception-room, and 
for several minutes a lively scene was enacted there. Meg 



LITTLE WOMEN 131 

was grateful to see that Miss Kate., though twenty, was dressed 
with a simplicity which American girls would do well to imitate ; 
and she was much flattered by Mr. Ned's assurances that he 
came especially to see her. Jo understood why Laurie 
" primmed up his mouth " when speaking of Kate, for that 
young lady had a stand-off-don't-touch-me air, which con- 
trasted strongly with the free and easy demeanor of the other 
girls. Beth took an observation of the new boys, and decided 
that the lame one was not " dreadful," but gentle and feeble, 
and she would be kind to him on that account. Amy found 
Grace a well-mannered, merry little person; and after staring 
dumbly at one another for a few minutes, they suddenly be- 
came very good friends. 

Tents, lunch, and croquet utensils having been sent on before- 
hand, the party was soon embarked, and the two boats pushed 
off together, leaving Mr. Laurence waving his hat on the 
shore. Laurie and Jo rowed one boat; Mr. Brooke and Ned 
the other; while Fred Vaughn, the riotous twin, did his best 
to upset both by paddling about in a wherry like a disturbed 
water-bug. Jo's funny hat deserved a vote of thanks, for it was 
of general utility ; it broke the ice in the beginning, by produc- 
ing a laugh; it created quite a refreshing breeze, flapping to 
and fro as she rowed, and would make an excellent umbrella 
for the whole party, if a shower came up, she said. Kate looked 
rather amazed at Jo's proceedings, especially as she exclaimed 
" Christopher Columbus ! " when she lost her oar ; and Laurie 
said, " My dear fellow, did I hurt you ? " when he tripped over 
her feet in taking his place. But after putting up her glass to 
examine the queer girl several times, Miss Kate decided that she 
was " odd, but rather clever," and smiled upon her from afar. 

Meg/m tne otner boatfwas delightfully situated, face to 
iace with the rowers, who both admired the prospect, and 
feathered their oars with uncommon " skill and dexterity/' Mr. 
Brooke was a grave, silent young man, with handsome brown 
eyes and a pleasant voice. Meg liked his quiet manners, and 
considered him a walking encyclopaedia of useful knowledge. 



132 LITTLE WOMEN 

He never talked to her much ; but he looked at her a good deal, 
and she felt sure that he did not regard her with aversion. 
Ned, being in college, of course put on all the airs which Fresh- 
men think it their \JDoTmdeK duty to assume; he was not very 
wise, but very good^^ratnrea, and altogether an excellent per- 
son to carry on a picnic. Sallie Gardiner was absorbed in keep- 
ing^ her white pique dress clean, and chattering with therubiqui) 
tous Fred, who kept Beth in constant terror by his pranks. 

It was not far to Longmeadow ; but the tent was pitched and 
the wickets down by the time they arrived. A pleasant green 
field, with three wide-spreading oaks in the middle, and a smooth 
strip of turf for croquet. 

" Welcome to Camp Laurence ! " said the young host, as they 
landed, with exclamations of delight. 

" Brooke is commander-in-chief ; I am commissary-general ; 
the other fellows are staff-officers; and you, ladies, are com- 
pany. The tent is for your especial benefit, and that oak is 
your drawing-room; this is the messroom, and the third is the 
camp-kitchen. Now, let 's have a game before it gets hot, and 
then we '11 see about dinner." 

Frank, Beth, Amy, and Grace sat down to watch the game 
played by the other eight. Mr. Brooke chose Meg, Kate, and 
Fred ; Laurie took Sallie, Jo, and Ned. The Englishers played 
well ; but the Americans played better, and contested every inch 
of the ground as strongly as if the spirit of '76 inspired them. 
Jo and Fred had several skirmishes, and once narrowly escaped 
high words. Jo was through the last wicket, and had missed 
the stroke, which failure ruffled her a good deal. Fred was 
close behind her, and his turn came before hers ; he gave a stroke, 
his ball hit the wicket, and stopped an inch on the wrong side. 
No one was very near ; and running up to examine, he gave it 
a sly nudge with his toe, which put it just an inch on the right 
side. 

" I 'm through ! Now, Miss Jo, I '11 settle you, and get in 
first," cried the young: gentleman, swinging his mallet for an- 
other blow. 



LITTLE WOMEN 133 

"You pushed it; I saw you; it's my turn now," said Jo 
sharply. 

" Upon my word, I did n't move it ; it rolled a bit, perhaps, 
but that is allowed ; so stand off, please, and let me have a go 
at the stake." 

" We don't cheat in America, but you can, if you choose," 
said Jo angrily. 

" Yankees are a deal the most tricky, everybody knows. 
There you go ! " returned Fred, croqueting her ball far away. 

Jo opened her lips to say something rude, but checked herself 
in time, colored up to her forehead, and stood a minute, ham- 
mering down a wicket with all her might, while Fred hit the 
stake, and declared himself out with much exultation. She 
went off to get her ball, and was a long time finding it, among 
the bushes; but she came back, looking cool and quiet, and 
waited her turn patiently. It took several strokes to regain the 
place she had lost ; and, when she got there, the other side had 
nearly won, for Kate's ball was the last but one, and lay near 
the stake. 

" By George, it 's all up with us ! Good-by, Kate. Miss Jo 
owes me one, so you are finished," cried Fred excitedly, as they 
all drew near to see the finish. 

" Yankees have a trick of being generous to their enemies," 
said Jo, with a look that made the lad redden, " especially when 
they beat them," she added, as, leaving Kate's ball untouched, 
she won the game by a clever stroke. 

Laurie threw up his hat ; then remembered that it would n't 
do to exult over the defeat of his guests, and stopped in the 
middle of a cheer to whisper to his friend, 

" Good for you, Jo ! He did cheat, I saw him ; we can't tell 
him so, but he won't do it again, take my word for it." 

Meg drew her aside, under pretence of pinning up a loose 
braid, and said approvingly, 

" It was dreadfully provoking ; but you kept your temper, 
and I 'm so glad, Jo." 

" Don't praise me, Meg, for I could box his ears this minute. 




LITTLE WOMEN 

ild certainly have boiled over if I hadn't stayed among 
"the nettles till I got my rage under enough to hold my tongue. 
It 's simmering now, so I hope he '11 keep out of my way/'" 
returned Jo, biting her lips, as she glowered at Fred from under 
her big hat. 

" Time for lunch," said Mr. Brooke, looking at his watch. 
" Commissary-general, will you make the fire and get water, 
while Miss March, Miss Sallie, and I spread the table? Who 
can make good coffee ? " 

"Jo can," said Meg, glad to recommend her sister. So Jo, 
feeling that her late lessons in cookery were to do her honor, 
went to preside over the coffee-pot, while the children collected 
dry sticks, and the boys made a fire, and got water from a 
spring near by. Miss Kate sketched, and Frank talked to Beth, 
who was making little mats of braided rushes to serve as plates. 

The commander-in-chief and his aids soon spread the table- 
cloth with an inviting array of eatables and drinkables, prettily 
decorated with green leaves. Jo announced that the coffee was 
ready, and every one_settled themselves to a hearty meal; for 
youth is seldom tiyspepticj and exercise develops wholesome 
appetities. A veryftler rylunch it was; for everything seemed 
fresh and funny, and frequent peals of laughter startled a ven- 
erable horse who fed near by. There was a pleasing inequality 
in the table, which produced many mishaps to cups and plates ; 
acorns dropped into the milk, little black ants partook of the 
refreshments without being invited, and fuzzy caterpillars swung 
down from the tree, to see what was going on. Three white- 
headed children peeped over the fence, and an objectionable dog 
barked at them from the other side of the river with all his 
might and main. 

" There's salt here, if you prefer it," said Laurie, as he handed 
Jo a saucer of berries. 

" Thank you, I prefer spiders," she replied, fishing up two 
unwary little ones who had gone to a creamy death. 

*' How dare you remind me of that horrid dinner-party, when 



LITTLE WOMEN 135 

yours is so nice in every way ? " added Jo, as they both laughed, 
and ate out of one plate, the china having run short. 

" I had an uncommonly good time that day, and have n't got 
over it yet. This is no credit to me, you know; I don't do 
anything ; it 's you and Meg and Brooke who make it go, and 
I 'm no end obliged to you. What shall we do when we can't 
eat any more?" asked Laurie, feeling that his trump card had 
been played when lunch was over. 

" Have games, till it 's cooler. I brought ' Authors/ and I 
dare say Miss Kate knows something new and nice. Go and 
ask her ; she 's company, and you ought to stay with her more." 

" Are n't you company too ? I thought she 'd suit Brooke ; 
but he keeps talking to Meg, and Kate just stares at them 
through that ridiculous glass of hers. I 'm going, so you 
need n't try to preach propriety, for you can't do it, Jo." 

Miss Kate did know several new games; and as the girls 
would not, and the boys could not, eat any more, they all 
adjourned to the drawing-room to play " Rigmarole." 

" One person begins a story, any nonsense you like, and tells 
as long as he pleases, only taking care to stop short at some 
exciting point, when the next takes it up and does the same. 
It 's very funny when well done, and makes a perfect jumble of 
tragical comical stuff to laugh over. Please start it, Mr. 
Brooke," said Kate, with a commanding air, which surprised 
Meg, who treated the tutor with as much respect as any other 
gentleman. 

Lying on the grass at the feet of the two young ladies, Mr. 
Brooke obediently began the story, with the handsome brown 
eyes steadily fixed upon the sunshiny river. 

" Once on a time, a knight went out into the world to seek 
his fortune, for he had nothing but his sword and his shield. 
He traveled a long while, nearly eight-and-twenty years, and 
had a hard time of it, till he came to the palace of a good old 
king, who had offered a reward to any one who would tame and 
train a fine but unbroken colt, of which he was very fond. The 
knight agreed to try, and got on slowly but surely ; for the colt 



136 LITTLE WOMEN 

was a gallant fellow, and soon learned to love his new master, 
though he was freakish and wild. Every day, when he gave 
his lessons to this pet of the king's, the knight rode him through 
the city; and, as he rode, he looked everywhere for a certain 
beautiful face, which he had seen many times in his dreams, but 
never found. One day, as he went prancing down a quiet street, 
he saw at the window of a ruinous castle the lovely face. He 
was delighted, inquired who lived in this old castle, and was 
told that several captive princesses were kept there by a spell, 
and spun all day to lay up money to buy their liberty. The 
knight wished intensely that he could free them; but he was 
poor, and could only go by each day, watching for the sweet 
face, and longing to see it out in the sunshine. At last he 
resolved to get into the castle and ask how he could help them. 
He went and knocked; the great door flew open, and he 
beheld " 

" A ravishingly lovely lady, who exclaimed, with a cry of 
rapture, ' At last ! at last ! ' "' continued Kate, who had read 
French novels, and admired the style. " ' 'Tis she ! ' cried Count 
Gustave, and fell at her feet in an ecstasy of joy. ' Oh, rise ! ' 
she said, extending a hand of marble fairness. ' Never ! till you 
tell me how I may rescue you,' swore the knight, still kneeling. 
' Alas, my cruel fate condemns me to remain here till my tyrant 
is destroyed/ 'Where is the villain?' 'In the mauve salon. 
Go, brave heart, and save me from despair.' ' I obey, and return 
victorious or dead ! " With these thrilling words be rushed away, 
and flinging open the door of the mauve salon, was about to 
enter, when he received " 

" A stunning blow from the big Greek lexicon, which an old 
fellow in a black gown fired at him," said Ned. " Instantly Sir 
What 's-his-name recovered himself, pitched the tyrant out of 
the window, and turned to join the lady, victorious, but with a 
bump on his brow ; found the door locked, tore up the curtains, 
made a rope ladder, got half-way down when the ladder broke, 
and he went head first into the moat, sixty feet below. Could 
swim like a duck, paddled round the castle till he came to a 



LITTLE WOMEN 137 

little door guarded by two stout fellows; knocked their heads 
together till they cracked like a couple of nuts, then, by a trifling 
exertion of his prodigious strength, he smashed in the door, 
went up a pair of stone steps covered with dust a foot thick, 
toads as big as your fist, and spiders that would frighten you 
into hysterics, Miss March. At the top of these steps he came 
plump upon a sight that took his breath away and chilled his 
blood " 

" A tall figure, all in white with a veil over its face and a 
lamp in its wasted hand," went on Meg. " It beckoned, gliding 
noiselessly before him down a corridor as dark and cold as any 
tomb. Shadowy effigies in armor stood on either side, a dead 
silence reigned, the lamp burned blue, and the ghostly figure 
ever and anon turned its face toward him, showing the glitter 
of awful eyes through its white veil. They reached a curtained 
door, behind which sounded lovely music ; he sprang forward to 
enter, but the spectre plucked him back, and waved threateningly 
before him a " 

" Snuff-box," said Jo, in a sepulchral tone, which convulsed 
the audience. " ' Thankee,' said the knight politely, as he took 
a pinch, and sneezed seven times so violently that his head fell 
off. ' Ha ! ha ! ' laughed the ghost ; and having peeped through 
the key-hole at the princesses spinning away for dear life, the 
evil spirit picked up her victim and put him in a large tin box, 
where there were eleven other knights packed together without 
their heads, like sardines, who all rose and began to " 

" Dance a hornpipe," cut in Fred, as Jo paused for breath ; 
" and, as they danced, the rubbishy old castle turned to a man- 
of-war in full sail. ' Up with the jib, reef the tops'l halliards, 
helm hard a lee, and man the guns ! ' roared the captain, as a 
Portuguese pirate hove in sight, with a flag black as ink flying 
from her foremast. ' Go in and win, my hearties !' says the 
captain ; and a tremendous fight begun. Of course the British 
beat; they always do." 

" No, they don't !" cried Jo, aside. 

" Having taken the pirate captain prisoner, sailed slap over 



138 LITTLE WOMEN 

the schooner, whose decks were piled with dead, and lee-scuppers 
ran blood, for the order had been ' Cutlasses, and die hard ! * 
' Bosun's mate, take a bight of the flying-jib sheet, and start 
this villain if he don't confess his sins double quick/ said the 
British captain. The Portuguese held his tongue like a brick, 
and walked the plank, while the jolly tars cheered like mad. 
But the sly dog dived, came up under the man-of-war, scuttled 
her, and down she went, with all sail set, ' To the bottom of the 
sea, sea, sea/ where " 

" Oh, gracious ! what shall I say ?" cried Sallie, as Fred ended 
his rigmarole, in which he had jumbled together, pell-mell, nauti- 
cal phrases and facts, out of one of his favorite books. " Well, 
they went to the bottom, and a nice mermaid welcomed them, 
but was much grieved on finding the box of headless knights, 
and kindly pickled them in brine, hoping to discover the mystery 
about them ; for, being a woman, she was curious. By and by 
a diver came down, and the mermaid said, ' I '11 give you this 
box of pearls if you can take it up ; ' for she wanted to restore 
the poor things to life, and could n't raise the heavy load herself. 
So the diver hoisted it up, and was much disappointed, on open- 
ing it, to find no pearls. He left it in a great lonely field, where 
it was found by a " 

" Little goose-girl, who kept a hundred fat geese in the field," 
said Amy, when Sallie's invention gave out. " The little girl 
was sorry for them, and asked an old woman what she should 
do to help them. ' Your geese will tell you, they know every- 
thing/ said the old woman. So she asked what she should use 
for new heads, since the old ones were lost, and all the geese 
opened their hundred mouths and screamed " 

" ' Cabbages ! ' " continued Laurie promptly. " ' Just the 
thing/ said the girl, and ran to get twelve fine ones from her 
garden. She put them on, the knights revived at once, thanked 
her, and went on their way rejoicing, never knowing the differ- 
ence, for there were so many other heads like them in the world 
that no one thought anything of it. The knight in whom I 'm 
interested went back to find the pretty face, and learned that the 



LITTLE WOMEN 139 

princesses had spun themselves free, and all gone to be married, 
but one. He was in a great state of mind at that ; and mounting 
the colt, who stood by him through thick and thin, rushed to the 
castle to see which was left. Peeping over the hedge, he saw 
the queen of his affections picking flowers in her garden. ' Will 
you give me a rose ? ' said he. ' You must come and get it. I 
can't come to you ; it is n't proper/ said she, as sweet as honey. 
He tried to climb over the hedge, but it seemed to grow higher 
and higher; then he tried to push through, but it grew thicker 
and thicker, and he was in despair. So he patiently broke twig 
after twig, till he had made a little hole, through which he 
peeped, saying imploringly, ' Let me in ! let me in ! ' But the 
pretty princess did not seem to understand, for she picked her 
roses quietly, and left him to fight his way in. Whether he did 
or not, Frank will tell you." 

" I can't ; I 'm not playing, I never do," said Frank, dismayed 
at the sentimental predicament out of which he was to rescue the 
absurd couple. Beth had disappeared behind Jo, and Grace was 
asleep. 

" So the poor knight is to be left sticking in the hedge, is 
he?" asked Mr. Brooke, still watching the river, and playing 
with the wild rose in his button-hole. 

" I guess the princess gave him a posey, and opened the gate, 
after a while," said Laurie, smiling to himself, as he threw 
acorns at his tutor. 

" What a piece of nonsense we have made ! With practice 
we might do something quite clever. Do you know ' Truth ' ? n 
asked Sallie, after they had laughed over their story. 

" I hope so," said Meg soberly. 

<J The game, I mean ? " 

"What is it? "said Fred. 

" Why, you pile up your hands, choose a number, and draw 
out in turn, and the person who draws at the number has to 
answer truly any questions put by the rest. It 's great fun." 

" Let 's try it," said Jo, who liked new experiments. 



140 LITTLE WOMEN 

Miss Kate and Mr. Brooke, Meg, and Ned declined, but Fred. 
Sallie, Jo, and Laurie piled and drew ; and the lot fell to Laurie, 

" Who are your heroes ? " asked Jo. 

" Grandfather and Napoleon." 

" Which lady here do you think prettiest ? " said Sallie. 

" Margaret." 

" Which do you like best? " from Fred. 

" Jo, of course." 

" What silly questions you ask ! " and Jo gave a disdainful 
shrug as the rest laughed at Laurie's matter-of-fact tone. 

" Try again ; Truth is n't a bad game," said Fred. 

" It 's a very good one for you," retorted Jo, in a low voice. 

Her turn came next. 

" What is your greatest fault ? " asked Fred, by way of testing 
in her the virtue he lacked himself. 

" A quick temper." 

" What do you wish for ? " said Laurie. 

" A pair of boot-lacings," returned Jo, guessing and defeating 
his purpose. 

" Not a true answer ; you must say what you really do want 
most." 

" Genius ; don't you wish you could give it to me, Laurie ? J> 
and she slyly smiled in his disappointed face. 

" What virtues do you most admire in a man ? " asked Sallie. 

" Courage and honesty." 

" Now my turn," said Fred, as his hand came last. 

" Let 's give it to him," whispered Laurie to Jo, who nodded, 
and asked at once, 

" Did n't you cheat at croquet ? " 

" Well, yes, a little bit." 

" Good ! Did n't you take your story out of ' The Sea- 
Lion ' ? " said Laurie. 

" Rather." 

" Don't you think the English nation perfect in every 
respect ? " asked Sallie. 

"I should be ashamed of myself if I did n't." 



LITTLE WOMEN 141 

" He T s a true John Bull. Now, Miss Sallie, you shall have 
a chance without waiting to draw. I '11 harrow up your feel- 
ings first, by asking if you don't think you are something of a 
flirt." said Laurie, as Jo nodded to Fred, as a sign that peace 
was declared. 

" You impertinent boy ! of course I 'm not," exclaimed Sallie, 
with an air that proved the contrary. 

" What do you hate most ? " asked Fred. 

" Spiders and rice-pudding." 

" What do you like best ? " asked Jo. 

" Dancing and French gloves." 

" Well, / think Truth is a very silly play ; let's have a sensible 
game of Authors, to refresh our minds," proposed Jo. 

Ned, Frank, and the little girls joined in this, and while it 
went on, the three elders sat apart, talking. Miss Kate took 
out her sketch again, and Margaret watched her, while Mr. 
Brooke lay on the grass, with a book, which he did not read. 

"How beautifully you do it! I wish I could draw," said 
Meg, with mingled admiration and regret in her voice. 

" Why don't you learn ? I should think you had taste and 
talent for it," replied Miss Kate graciously. 

" I have n't time." 

" Your mamma prefers other accomplishments, I fancy, so 
did mine ; but I proved to her that I had talent, by taking a f e\f 
lessons privately, and then she was quite willing I should go 
on. Can't you do the same with your governess ? " 

" I have none." 

" I forgot ; young ladies in America go to school more than 
with us. Very fine schools they are, too, papa says. You go to 
a private one, I suppose ? " 

" 1 don't go at all ; I am a governess myself." 

" Oh, indeed ! " said Miss Kate ; but she might as well have 
said, " Dear me, how dreadful ! " for her tone implied it, and 
something in her face made Meg color, and wish she had not 
been so frank, 

Mr, Brooke looked up, and said quickly, " Young ladies in 



142 LITTLE WOMEN 

America love independence as much as their ancestors did, and 
are admired and respected for supporting themselves/' 

" Oh, yes ; of course it 's very nice and proper in them to do so. 
We have many most respectable and worthy young women, who 
do the same and are employed by the nobility, because, being 
the daughters of gentlemen, they are both well-bred and accom- 
plished, you know," said Miss Kate, in a patronizing tone, that 
hurt Meg's pride, and made her work seem not only more dis- 
tasteful, but degrading. 

" Did the German song suit, Miss March ? " inquired Mr. 
Brooke, breaking an awkward pause. 

" Oh, yes ! it was very sweet, and I 'm much obliged to who- 
ever translated it for me ; " and Meg's downcast face brightened 
as she spoke. 

" Don't you read German ? " asked Miss Kate, with a look of 
surprise. 

" Not very well. My father, who taught me, is away, and I 
don't get on very fast alone, for I 've no one to correct my pro- 
nunciation." 

" Try a little now ; here is Schiller's ' Mary Stuart,' and a 
tutor who loves to teach," and Mr. Brooke laid his book on her 
lap, with an inviting smile. 

" It 's so hard I 'm afraid to try," said Meg, grateful, but 
bashful in the presence of the accomplished young lady beside 
her. 

" I '11 read a bit to encourage you ; and Miss Kate read one 
of the most beautiful passages, in a perfectly correct but per- 
fectly expressionless manner. 

Mr. Brooke made no comment, as she returned the book to 
Meg, who said innocently, 

" I thought it was poetry." 

" Some of it is. Try this passage." 

There was a queer smile about Mr. Brooke's mouth as he 
opened at poor Mary's lament. 

Meg obediently following the long grass-blade which her 
new tutor used to point with, read slowly and timidly, uncon- 



LITTLE WOMEN 143 

sciously making poetry of the hard words by the soft intonation 
of her musical voice. Down the page went the green guide, 
and presently, forgetting her listener in the beauty of the sad 
scene, Meg read as if alone, giving a little touch of tragedy to 
the words of the unhappy queen. If she had seen the brown 
eyes then, she would have stopped short; but she never looked 
up, and the lesson was not spoiled for her. 

" Very well indeed ! " said Mr. Brooke, as she paused, quite 
ignoring her many mistakes, and looking as if ha did, indeed, 
" love to teach." 

Miss Kate put up her glass, and, having taken a survey of the 
little tableau before her, shut her sketch-book, saying, with 
condescension, 

" You 've a nice accent, and, in time, will be a clever reader. 
I advise you to learn, for German is a valuable accomplishment 
to teachers. I must look after Grace, she is romping ; " and Miss 
Kate strolled away, adding to herself, with a shrug, " I did n't 
come to chaperone a governess, though she is young and pretty. 
What odd people these Yankees are ; I 'm afraid Laurie will be 
quite spoilt among them." 

" I forgot that English people rather turn up their noses at 
governesses, and don't treat them as we do," said Meg, look- 
ing after the retreating figure with an annoyed expression. 

" Tutors, also, have rather a hard time of it there, as I know 
to my sorrow. There's no place like America for us workers, 
Miss Margaret ; " and Mr. Brooke looked so contented and 
cheerful, that Meg was ashamed to lament her hard lot. 

" I 'm glad I live in it then. I don't like my work, but I get 
a good deal of satisfaction out of it after all, so I won't com- 
plain ; I only wish I liked teaching as you do." 

" I think you would if you had Laurie for a pupil. 1 shall 
be sorry to lose him next year," said Mr. Brooke, busily punch- 
ing holes in the turf. 

" Going to college, I suppose ? " Meg's lips asked that ques- 
tion, but her eyes added, " And what becomes of you? " 



144 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Yes ; it 's high time he went, for he is ready ; and as soon 
as he is off, I shall turn soldier. I am needed." 

" I am glad of that ! " exclaimed Meg. " I should think every 
young man would want to go ; though it is hard for the mothers 
and sisters who stay at home," she added sorrowfully. 

" I have neither, and very few friends, to care whether I live 
or die," said Mr. Brooke, rather bitterly, as he absently put the 
dead rose in the hole he had made and covered it up, like a little 
grave. 

" Laurie and his grandfather would care a great deal, and we 
should all be very sorry to have any harm happen to you," said 
Meg heartily. 

" Thank you ; that sounds pleasant," began Mr. Brooke, look- 
ing cheerful again ; but before he could finish his speech, Ned, 
mounted on the old horse, came lumbering up to display his 
equestrian skill before the young ladies, and there was no more 
quiet that day. 

" Don't you love to ride? " asked Grace of Amy, as they stood 
resting, after a race round the field with the others, led by Ned. 

" I dote upon it ; my sister Meg used to ride when papa was 
rich, but we don't keep any horses now, except Ellen Tree," 
added Amy, laughing. 

" Tell me about Ellen Tree ; is it a donkey ? " asked Grace, 
curiously. 

" Why, you see, Jo is crazy about horses, and so am I, but 
we Ve only got an old side-saddle, and no horse. Out in our 
garden is an apple-tree, that has a nice low branch; so Jo put 
the saddle on it, fixed some reins on the part that turns up, and 
we bounce away on Ellen Tree whenever we like." 

" How funny ! " laughed Grace. " I have a pony at home, and 
ride nearly every day in the park, with Fred and Kate ; it 's 
very nice, for my friends go too, and the Row is full of ladies 
and gentlemen." 

" Dear, how charming ! I hope I shall go abroad some day ; 
but I 'd rather go to Rome than the Row," said Amy who had 



LITTLE WOMEN 145 

not the remotest idea what the Row was, and wouldn't have 
asked for the world. 

Frank, sitting just behind the little girls, heard what they 
were saying, and pushed his crutch away from him with an 
impatient gesture as he watched the active lads going through 
all sorts of comical gymnastics. Beth, who was collecting the 
scattered Author-cards, looked up, and said, in her shy yet 
friendly way, 

" I 'm afraid you are tired ; can I do anything for you ? " 

" Talk to me, please ; it 's dull, sitting by myself/' answered 
Frank, who had evidently been used to being made much of at 
home. 

If he had asked her to deliver a Latin oration, it would not 
have seemed a more impossible task to bashful Beth; but there 
was no place to run to, no Jo to hide behind now, and the poor 
boy looked so wistfully at her, that she bravely resolved to try. 

" What do you like to talk about ? " she asked, fumbling over 
the cards, and dropping half as she tried to tie them up. 

" Well, I like to hear about cricket and boating and hunting," 
said Frank, who had not yet learned to suit his amusements to 
his strength. 

" My heart ! what shall I do ? I don't know anything about 
them/' thought Beth; and, forgetting the boy's misfortune in 
her flurry, she said, hoping to make him talk. " I never saw any 
hunting, but I suppose you know all about it." 

" I did once ; but I can never hunt again, for I got hurt leap- 
ing a confounded five-barred gate ; so there are no more horses 
and hounds for me," said Frank, with a sigh that made Beth 
hate herself for her innocent blunder. 

" Your deer are much prettier than our ugly buffaloes," she 
said, turning to the prairies for help, and feeling glad that she 
had read one of the boys' books in which Jo delighted. 

Buffaloes proved soothing and satisfactory; and, in her 
eagerness to amuse another, Beth forgot herself, and was quite 
unconscious of her sisters' surprise and delight at the unusual 



146 LITTLE WOMEN 

spectacle of Beth talking away to one of the dreadful 
against whom she had begged protection. 

" Bless her heart ! She pities him, so she is good to him/' 
said Jo, beaming at her from the croquet-ground. 

" I always said she was a little saint," added Meg, as if there 
could be no further doubt of it. 

" I have n't heard Frank laugh so much for ever so long," 
said Grace to Amy, as they sat discussing dolls, and making tea- 
sets out of the acorn-cups. 

" My sister .Beth is a very fastidious girl, when she likes to 
be," said Amy, well pleased at Beth's success. She meant " fas- 
cinating," but as Grace did n't know the exact meaning of either 
word. " fastidious " sounded well, and made a good impression. 

An impromptu circus, fox and geese, and an amicable game 
of. croquet, finished the afternoon. At sunset the tent was 
struck, hampers packed, wickets pulled up, boats loaded, and 
the whole party floated down the river, singing at the tops of 
their voices. Ned, getting sentimental, warbled a serenade with 
the pensive refrain, 

"Alone, alone, ah! woe, alone," 
and at the lines 

"We each are young, we each have a heart, 
Oh, why should we stand thus coldly apart ? " 

he looked at Meg with such a lackadaisical expression that she 
laughed outright and spoilt his song. 

" How can you be so cruel to me ? " he whispered, under cover 
of a lively chorus. " You 've kept close to that starched-up 
Englishwoman all day, and now you snub me." 

" I did n't mean to ; but you looked so funny I really could n't 
help it," replied Meg, passing over the first part of his reproach; 
for it was quite true that she had shunned him, remembering 
the Moffat party and the talk after it. 

Ned was offended, and turned to Sallie for consolation, saying 
to her rather pettishly. " There is n't a bit of flirt in that girl, 
is there?" 



LITTLE WOMEN 147 

" Not a particle ; but she 's a dear," returned Sallie, defending 
her friend even while confessing her short-comings. 

" She 's not a stricken deer, any way," said Ned, trying to 
be witty, and succeeding as well as very young gentlemen usually 
do. 

On the lawn, where it had gathered, the little party separated 
with cordial good-nights and good-byes, for the Vaughns were 
going to Canada. As the four sisters went home through the 
garden, Miss Kate looked after them, saying, without the patron- 
izing tone in her voice, " In spite of their demonstrative man- 
ners, American girls are very nice when one knows them." 

" I quite agree with you," said Mr. Brooke. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

CASTLES IN THE AIR. 

LAURIE lay luxuriously swinging to and fro in his hammock, 
one warm September afternoon, wondering what his neighbors 
were about, but too lazy to go and find out. He was in one of 
his moods ; for the day had been both unprofitable and unsatis- 
factory, and he was wishing he could live it over again. The 
hot weather made him indolent, and he had shirked his studies, 
tried Mr. Brooke's patience to the utmost, displeased his grand- 
father by practising half the afternoon, frightened the maid- 
servants half out of their wits, by mischievously hinting that 
one of his dogs was going mad, and, after high words with the 
stable-man about some fancied neglect of his horse, he had 
flung himself into his hammock, to fume over the stupidity of 
the world in general till the peace of the lovely day quieted him 
in spite of himself. Staring up into the green gloom of the 
horse-chestnut trees above him, he dreamed dreams of all sorts, 
and was just imagining himself tossing on the ocean, in a voyage 
round the world, when the sound of voices brought him ashore 
in a flash. Peeping through the meshes of the hammock, he 



148 LITTLE WOMEN 

saw the Marches coming out, as if bound on some expedition* 

" What in the world are those girls about now ? " thought 
Laurie, opening his sleepy eyes to take a good look, for there 
was something rather peculiar in the appearance of his neigh- 
bors. Each wore a large, flapping hat, a brown linen pouch 
slung over one shoulder, and carried a long staff. Meg had a 
cushion, Jo a book, Beth a basket, and Amy a portfolio. All 
walked quietly through the garden, out at the little back gate, 
and began to climb the hill that lay between the house and river. 

" Well, that's cool ! " said Laurie to himself, " to have a picnic 
and never ask me. They can't be going in the boat, for they 
have n't got the key. Perhaps they forgot it ; I '11 take it to 
them, and see what 's going on." 

Though possessed of half a dozen hats, it took him some time 
to find one ; then there was a hunt for the key, which was at last 
discovered in his pocket; so that the girls were quite out of 
sight when he leaped the fence and ran after them. Taking the 
shortest way to the boathouse, he waited for them to appear: 
but no one came, and he went up the hill to take an observation. 
A grove of pines covered one part of it, and from the heart of 
this green spot came a clearer sound than the soft sigh of the 
pines or the drowsy chirp of the crickets. 

" Here 's a landscape ! " thought Laurie, peeping through the 
bushes, and looking wide-awake and good-natured already. 

It was rather a pretty little picture, for the sisters sat together 
in the shady nook, with sun and shadow flickering over them, the 
aromatic wind lifting their hair and cooling their hot cheeks, 
and all the little wood-people going on with their affairs as if 
these were no strangers but old friends. Meg sat upon her 
cushion, sewing daintily with her white hands, and looking as 
fresh and sweet as a rose, in her pink dress, among the green. 
Beth was sorting the cones that lay thick under the hemlock near 
by, for she made pretty things of them. Amy was sketching a 
group of ferns, and Jo was knitting as she read aloud. A 
shadow passed over the boy's face as he watched them, feeling 
that he ought to go away, because uninvited; yet lingering. 



LITTLE WOMEN 149 

because home seemed very lonely, and this quiet party in the 
woods most attractive to his restless spirit. He stood so still 
that a squirrel, busy with its harvesting, ran down a pine close 
beside him, saw him suddenly and skipped back, scolding so 
shrilly that Beth looked up, espied the wistful face behind the 
birches, and beckoned with a reassuring smile. 

" May I come in, please ? or shall I be a bother ? " he asked, 
advancing slowly. 

Meg lifted her eyebrows, but Jo scowled at her defiantly and 
said, at once, " Of course you may. We should have asked you 
before, only we thought you would n't care for such a girl's 
game as this." 

" I always liked your games ; but if Meg does n't want me, 
I '11 go away." 

"I've no objection, if you do something; it's against the 
rules to be idle here," replied Meg, gravely but graciously. 

" Much obliged ; I '11 do anything if you '11 let me stop a bit, 
for it 's as dull as the Desert of Sahara down there. Shall I 
sew, read, cone, draw, or do all at once ? Bring on your bears ; 
I 'm ready," and Laurie sat down, with a submissive expression 
delightful to behold. 

" Finish this story while I set my heel," said Jo, handing him 
the book. 

" Yes 'm," was the meek answer, as he began, doing his best 
to prove his gratitude for the favor of an admission into the 
" Busy Bee Society." 

The story was not a long one, and, when it was finished, he 
ventured to ask a few questions as a reward of merit. 

" Please, ma'am, could I inquire if this highly instructive and 
charming institution is a new one ? " 

" Would you tell him ?" asked Meg of her sisters. 

" He '11 laugh," said Amy warningly. 

" Who cares ? " said Jo. 

" I guess he '11 like it," added Beth. 

" Of course I shall ! I give you my word I won't feugh. 
Tell, away, Jo, and don't be afraid." 



150 LITTLE WOMEN 

" The idea of being afraid of you ! Well, you see we used 
to play ' Pilgrim's Progress/ and we have been going on with 
it in earnest, all winter and summer." 

"Yes, I know," said Laurie, nodding wisely. 

" Who told you ? " demanded Jo. 

"Spirits." 

" No, I did ; I wanted to amuse him one night when you were 
all away, and he was rather dismal. He did like it, so don't 
scold, Jo," said Beth meekly. 

" You can't keep a secret. Never mind ; it saves trouble 
now." 

" Go on, please," said Laurie, as Jo became absorbed in hei 
work, looking a trifle displeased. 

" Oh, did n't she tell you about this new plan of ours ? Well, 
we have tried not to waste our holiday, but each has had a task, 
and worked at it with a will. The vacation is nearly over, the 
stints are all done, and we are ever so glad that we did n't 
dawdle." 

" Yes, I should think so ; " and Laurie thought regretfully 
of his own idle days. 

" Mother likes to have us out of doors as much as possible ; 
so we bring our work here, and have nice times. For the fun 
of it we bring out things in these bags, wear the old hats, use 
poles to climb the hill, and play pilgrims, as we used to do years 
ago. We call this hill the ' Delectable Mountain,' for we can 
look far away and see the country where we hope to live some 
time." 

Jo pointed, and Laurie sat up to examine; for through an 
opening in the wood one could look across the wide, blue river, 
the meadows on the other side, far over the outskirts of the 
great city, to the green hills that rose to meet the sky. The 
sun was low, and the heavens glowed with the splendor of an 
autumn sunset. Gold and purple clouds lay on the hill-tops ; and 
rising high into the ruddy light were silvery white peaks, that 
shone like the airy spires of some Celestial City. 



LITTLE WOMEN 151 

" How beautiful that is ! " said Laurie softly, for he was quick 
to see and feel beauty of any kind. 

" It 's often so ; and we like to watch it, for it is never the 
same, but always splendid," replied Amy, wishing she could 
paint it. 

" Jo talks about the country where we hope to live some time, 
the real country, she means, with pigs and chickens and hay- 
making. It would be nice, but I wish the beautiful country up 
there was real, and we could ever go to it," said Beth musingly. 

" There is a lovelier country even than that, where we shall go, 
by and by, when we are good enough," answered Meg, with her 
sweet voice. 

" It seems so long to wait, so hard to do ; I want to fly away 
at once, as those swallows fly, and go in at that splendid gate." 

" You '11 get there, Beth, sooner or later ; no fear of that," 
said Jo ; "I 'm the one that will have to fight and work, and 
climb and wait, and maybe never get in after all." 

" You '11 have me for company, if that 's any comfort. I 
shall have to do a deal of traveling before I come in sight of 
your Celestial City. If I arrive late, you '11 say a good word for 
me, won't you, Beth ? " 

Something in the boy's face troubled his little friend; but 
she said cheerfully, with her quiet eyes on the changing clouds, 
"If people really want to go, and really try all their lives, I 
think they will get in ; for I don't believe there are any locks on 
that door, or any guards at the gate. I always imagine it is as 
it is in the picture, where the shining ones stretch out their 
hands to welcome poor Christian as he comes up from the 
river." 

" Would n't it be fun if all the castles in the air which we 
make could come true, and we could live in them ? " said Jo, 
after a little pause. 

" I 've made such quantities it would be hard to choose which 
I 'd have," said Laurie, lying flat, and throwing cones at the 
Squirrel who had betraved him. 



152 LITTLE WOMEN 

" You 'd have to take your favorite one. What is it ? " asked 
Meg. 

" If I tell mine, will you tell yours ? " 

" Yes, if the girls will too." 

"We will. Now, Laurie." 

" After I 'd seen as much of the world as I want to, I 'd like 
to settle in Germany, and have just as much music as I choose. 
I 'm to be a famous musician myself, and all creation is to rush 
to hear me ; and I 'm never to be bothered about money or 
business, but just enjoy myself, and live for what I like. That 's 
my favorite castle. What's yours, Meg?" 

Margaret seemed to find it a little hard to tell hers, and 
waved a brake before her face, as if to disperse imaginary 
gnats, while she said slowly, " I should like a lovely house, 
full of all sorts of luxurious things, nice food, pretty clothes, 
handsome furniture, pleasant people, and heaps of money. I 
am to be mistress of it, and manage it as I like, with plenty of 
servants, so I never need work a bit. How I should enjoy it ! 
for I would n't be idle, but do good, and make every one love 
me dearly." 

"Would n't you have a master for your castle in the air ? ' 
asked Laurie slyly. 

" I said ' pleasant people,' you know ; " and Meg carefully 
tied up her shoe as she spoke, so that no one saw her face. 

" Why don't you say you 'd have a splendid, wise, good 
husband, and some angelic little children? You know your 
castle would n't be perfect without," said blunt Jo, who had no 
tender fancies yet, and rather scorned romance, except in books. 

" You 'd have nothing but horses, inkstands, and novels in 
yours," answered Meg petulantly. 

"Wouldn't I, though? I'd have a stable full of Arabian 
steeds, rooms piled with books, and I 'd write of a magic 
inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie's 
music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my 
castle, something heroic or wonderful, that won't be forgot- 
ten after I 'm dead. I don't know what, but I 'm on the watch 



LITTLE WOMEN 153 

for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I think I shall 
write books, and get rich and famous: that would suit me, so 
that is my favorite dream." 

" Mine is to stay at home safe with father and mother, and 
help take care of the family," said Beth contentedly. 

" Don't you wish for anything else ? " asked Laurie. 

" Since I had my little piano, I am perfectly satisfied. I only 
wish we may all keep well and be together ; nothing else." 

" I have ever so many wishes ; but the pet one is to be an 
artist, and go to Rome, and do fine pictures, and be the best 
artist in the whole world," was Amy's modest desire. 

" We 're an ambitious set, are n't we ? Every one of us, but 
Beth, wants to be rich and famous, and gorgeous in every 
respect. I do wonder if any of us will ever get our wishes," 
said Laurie, chewing grass, like a meditative calf. 

" I 've got the key to my castle in the air ; but whether I can 
unlock the door remains to be seen," observed Jo mysteriously. 

" I 've got the key to mine, but I 'm not allowed to try it. 
Hang college ! " muttered Laurie, with an impatient sigh. 

" Here's mine ! " and Amy waved her pencil. 

" I have n't got any," said Meg forlornly. 

" Yes, you have," said Laurie at once. 

"Where?" 

" In your face." 

" Nonsense ; that 's of no use." 

" Wait and see if it does n't bring you something worth hav- 
ing," replied the boy, laughing at the thought of a charming 
little secret which he fancied he knew. 

Meg colored behind the brake, but asked no questions and 
looked across the river with the same expectant expression 
which Mr. Brooke had worn when he told the story of the 
knight. 

" If we are all alive ten years hence, let 's meet, and see how 
many of us have got our wishes, or how much nearer we are 
then than now," said Jo, always ready with a plan. 

" Bless me ! how old I shall be, twenty-seven ! " exclaimed 



154 LITTLE WOMEN 

Meg, who felt grown up already., having just reached seventeen- 
t: You and I will be twenty-six, Teddy, Beth twenty-four, 

and Amy twenty-two. What a venerable party ! " said Jo. 
" I hope I shall have done something to be proud of by that 

time ; but I 'm such a lazy dog, I 'm afraid I shall ' dawdle/ 

Jo." 

" You need a motive, mother says ; and when you get it, she 
is sure you '11 work splendidly." 

" Is she ? By Jupiter I will, if I only get the chance ! " cried 
Laurie, sitting up with sudden energy. " I ought to be satisfied 
to please grandfather, and I do try, but it 's working against the 
grain, you see, and comes hard. He wants me to be an India 
merchant, as he was, and I 'd rather be shot. I hate tea and 
silk and spices, and every sort of rubbish his old ships bring, 
and I don't care how soon they go to the bottom when I own 
them. Going to college ought to satisfy him, for if I give him 
four years he ought to let me off from the business ; but he f s 
set, and I 've got to do just as he did, unless I break away and 
please myself, as my father did. If there was any one left to 
stay with the old gentleman, I 'd do it to-morrow. 

Laurie spoke excitedly, and looked ready to carry his threat 
into execution on the slightest provocation ; for he was growing 
up very fast, and, in spite of his indolent ways, had a young 
man's hatred of subjection, a young man's restless longing to 
try the world for himself. 

" I advise you to sail away in one of your ships, and never 
come home again till you have tried your own way," said Jo, 
whose imagination was fired by the thought of such a daring 
exploit, and whose sympathy was excited by what she called 
"Teddy's wrongs." 

" That 's not right, Jo ; you must n't talk in that way, and 
Laurie must n't take your bad advice. You should do just what 
your grandfather wishes, my dear boy," said Meg, in her most 
maternal tone. " Do your best at college, and, when he sees 
that you try to please him, I 'm sure he won't be hard or unjust 
to you. As you say, there is no one else to stay with and love 



LITTLE WOMEN 155 

him, and you 'd never forgive yourself if you left him without 
his permission. Don't be dismal or fret, but do your duty ; and 
you '11 get your reward, as good Mr. Brooke has, by being 
respected and loved." 

" What do you know about him ?" asked Laurie, grateful for 
the good advice, but objecting to the lecture, and glad to turn 
the conversation from himself, after his unusual outbreak. 

" Only what your grandpa told us about him, how he took 
good care of his own mother till she died, and would n't go 
abroad as tutor to some nice person, because he would n't leave 
her ; and how he provides now for an old woman who nursed 
his mother ; and never tells any one, but is just as generous and 
patient and good as he can be." 

" So he is, dear old fellow !" said Laurie heartily, as Meg 
paused, looking flushed and earnest with her story. " It 's like 
grandpa to find out all about him, without letting him know, and 
to tell all his goodness to others, so that they might like him. 
Brooke could n't understand why your mother was so kind to 
him, asking him over with me, and treating him in her beautiful 
friendly way. He thought she was just perfect, and talked 
about it for days and days, and went on about you all in flaming 
style. If ever I do get my wish, you see what I '11 do for 
Brooke." 

" Begin to do something now, by not plaguing his life out," 
said Meg sharply. 

" How do you know I do, miss ?" 

" I can always tell by his face, when he goes away. If you 
have been good, he looks satisfied and walks briskly ; if you have 
plagued him, he 's sober and walks slowly, as if he wanted to 
go back and do his work better." 

" Well, I like that ! So you keep an account of my good and 
bad marks in Brooke's face, do you ? I see him bow and smile 
iss ne passes your window, but I did n't know you 'd got up a 
telegraph." 

" We have n't ; don't be angry, and oh, don't tell him I said 
anything \ It was only to show that I cared how you get ow 



156 LITTLE WOMEN 

and what is said here is said in confidence, you know," cried 
Meg, much alarmed at the thought of what might follow from 
her careless speech. 

"7 don't tell tales," replied Laurie, with his "high and 
mighty" air, as Jo called a certain expression which he 
occasionally wore. " Only if Brooke is going to be a thermom- 
eter, I must mind and have fair weather for him to report." 

" Please don't be offended. I did n't mean to preach or tell 
tales or be silly; I only thought Jo was encouraging you in a 
feeling which you 'd be sorry for, by and by. You are so kind 
to us, we feel as if you were our brother, and say just what we 
think. Forgive me, I meant it kindly." And Meg offered her 
hand with a gesture both affectionate and timid. 

Ashamed of his momentary pique, Laurie squeezed the kind 
little hand, and said frankly, " I 'm the one to be forgiven ; I 'm 
cross, and have been out of sorts al 1 day. I like to have you tell 
me my faults and be sisterly, so don't mind if 1 am grumpy 
sometimes ; I thank you all the same." 

Bent on showing that he was not offended, he made himself 
as agreeable as possible, wound cotton for Meg, recited poetry 
to please Jo, shook down cones for Beth, and helped Amy with 
her ferns, proving himself a fit person to belong to the " Busy 
Bee Society." In the midst of an animated discussion on the 
domestic habits of turtles (one of those amiable creatures hav- 
ing strolled up from the river), the faint sound of a bell warned 
them that Hannah had put the tea " to draw," and they would 
just have time to get home to supper. 

" May I come again ? " asked Laurie. 

" Yes, if you are good, and love your book, as the boys in the 
primer are told to do," said Meg, smiling. 

" I '11 try." 

" Then you may come, and I '11 teach you to knit as the 
Scotchmen do ; there 's a demand for socks just now," added TO. 
waving hers, like a big blue worsted banner, as they parted at 
the gate. 

That night, when Beth played to Mr. Laurence in the twilight, 



LITTLE WOMEN 157 

Laurie, standing in the shadow of the curtain, listened to the 
little David, whose simple music always quieted his moody spirit, 
and watched the old man, who sat with his gray head on his 
hand, thinking tender thoughts of the dead child he had loved so 
much. Remembering the conversation of the afternoon, the boy 
said to himself, with the resolve to make the sacrifice cheer- 
fully, " I '11 let my castle go, and stay with the dear old gentle- 
man while he needs me, for I am all he has." 



CHAPTER XIV. 

SECRETS. 

Jo was very busy in the garret, for the October days began to 
grow chilly, and the afternoons were short. For two or three 
hours the sun lay warmly in the high window, showing Jo seated 
on the old sofa, writing busily, with her papers spread out upon a 
trunk before her, while Scrabble, the pet rat, promenaded the 
beams overhead, accompanied by his oldest son, a fine young 
fellow, who was evidently very proud of his whiskers. Quite 
absorbed in her work, Jo scribbled away till the last page was 
filled, when she signed her name with a flourish, and threw down 
her pen, exclaiming, 

" There, I 've done my best ! If this won't suit I shall have 
to wait till I can do better." 

Lying back on the sofa, she read the manuscript carefully 
through, making dashes here and there, and putting in many 
exclamation points, which looked like little balloons; then she 
tied it up with a smart red ribbon, and sat a minute looking at 
it with a sober, wistful expression, which plainly showed how 
earnest her work had been. Jo's desk up here was an old tin 
kitchen, which hung against the wall. In it she kept her papers 
and a few books, safely shut away from Scrabble, who, being 
likewise of a literary turn, was fond of making a circulating 
library of such books as were left in his way, by eating the 



t$8 LITTLE WOMEN 

leaves. From this tin receptacle Jo produced another manu- 
script ; and, putting both in her pocket, crept quietly down stairs, 
leaving her friends to nibble her pens and taste her ink. 

She put on her hat and jacket as noiselessly as possible, and, 
going to the back entry window, got out upon the roof of a low 
porch, swung herself down to the grassy bank, and took a round- 
about way to the road. Once there, she composed herself, hailed 
a passing omnibus, and rolled away to town, looking very merry 
and mysterious. 

If any one had been watching her, he would have thought her 
movements decidedly peculiar; for, on alighting, she went off 
at a great pace till she reached a certain number in a certain busy 
street; having found the place with some difficulty, she went 
into the door-way, looked up the dirty stairs, and, after stand- 
ing stock still a minute, suddenly dived into the street, and 
walked away as rapidly as she came. This manoeuvre she 
repeated several times, to the great amusement of a black-eyed 
young gentleman lounging in the window of a building opposite. 
On returning for the third time, Jo gave herself a shake, pulled 
her hat over her eyes, and walked up the stairs, looking as if she 
were going to have all her teeth out. 

There was a dentist's sign, among others, which adorned the 
entrance, and, after staring a moment at the pair of artificial 
jaws which slowly opened and shut to draw attention \o a fine 
set of teeth, the young gentleman put on his coat, took his hat, 
and went down to post himself in the opposite doorway, saying, 
with a smile and a shiver, 

" It 's like her to come alone, but if she has a bad time she '11 
need some one to help her home." 

In ten minutes Jo came running down stairs with a very red 
face, and the general appearance of a person who had just 
passed through a trying ordeal of some sort. When she saw 
the young gentleman she looked anything but pleased, and passed 
him with a nod; but he followed, asking, with an air of 
sympathy, 

" Did you have a bad time ? " 



LITTLE WOMEN 

" Not very." 

" You got through quickly." 

" Yes, thank goodness ! " 

" Why did you go alone ? " 

" Did n't want any one to know." 

" You 're the oddest fellow I ever saw. How many did yov 
have out?" 

Jo looked at her friend as if she did not understand him; 
then began to laugh, as if mightily amused at something. 

" There are two which I want to have come out, but I must 
wait a week." 

" What are you laughing at ? You are up to some mischief, 
Jo," said Laurie, looking mystified. 

" So are you. What were you doing, sir, up in that billiard 
saloon ?" 

" Begging your pardon, ma'am, it was n't a billiard saloon, 
but a gymnasium, and I was taking a lesson in fencing." 

" I 'm glad of that." 

"Why?" 

" You can teach me, and then when we play Hamlet, you can 
be Laertes, and we '11 make a fine thing of the fencing scene." 

Laurie burst out with a hearty boy's laugh, which made 
several passers-by smile in spite of themselves. 

" I '11 teach you whether we play Hamlet or not ; it 's grand 
fun, and will straighten you up capitally. But I don't believe 
that was your only reason for saying ' I 'm glad,' in that decided 
way ; was it, now ? " 

" No, I was glad that you were not in the saloon, because I 
hope you never go to such places. Do you ? " 

" Not often." 

" I wish you would n't." 

" It 's no harm, Jo. I have billiards at home, but it 's no fun 
unless you have good players ; so, as I 'm fond of it, I come 
sometimes and have a game with Ned Moffat or some of the 
other fellows." 

" Oh dear, I 'm so sorry, for you '11 get to liking it better and 



160 LITTLE WOMEN 

better, and will waste time and money, and grow like those 
dreadful boys. I did hope you V stay respectable, and be a 
satisfaction to your friends," said Jo, shaking her head. 

" Can't a fellow take a little innocent amusement now and 
then without losing his respectability ? " asked Laurie, looking 
nettled. 

" That depends upon how and where he takes it. I don't like 
Ned and his set, and wish you 'd keep out of it. Mother won't 
let us have him at our house, though he wants to come ; and if 
you grow like him she won't be willing to have us frolic together 
as we do now." 

" Won't she ? " asked Laurie anxiously. 

" No, she can't bear fashionable young men, and she 'd shut 
us all up in bandboxes rather than have us associate with them." 

" Well, she need n't get out her bandboxes yet ; I 'm not a 
fashionable party, and don't mean to be ; but I do like harmless 
larks now and then, don't you ? " 

" Yes, nobody minds them, so lark away, but don't get wild, 
will you ? or there will be an end of all our good times." 

" I '11 be a double-distilled saint." 

" I can't bear saints : just be a simple, honest, respectable boy, 
and we '11 never desert you. I don't know what I should do if 
you acted like Mr. King's son; he had plenty of money, but 
did n't know how to spend it, and got tipsy and gambled, and 
ran away, and forged his father's name, I believe, and was 
altogether horrid." 

" You think I 'm likely to do the same ? Much obliged," 

" No, I don't oh, dear, no ! but I hear people talking 
about money being such a temptation, and I sometimes wish you 
were poor ; I should n't worry then." 

" Do you worry about me, Jo ? " 

" A little, when you look moody or discontented, as you some- 
times do ; for you Ve got such a strong will, if you once get 
started wrong, I 'm afraid it would be hard to stop you." 

Laurie walked in silence a few minutes, and Jo watched him, 



LITTLE WOMEN 161 

wishing she had held her tongue, for his eyes looked angry, 
though his lips still smiled as if at her warnings. 

" Are you going to deliver lectures all the way home ? " he 
asked presently. 

"Of course not; why?" 

" Because if you are, I '11 take a 'bus ; if you are not, I 'd like 
to walk with you, and tell you something very interesting." 

" I won't preach any more, and I 'd like to hear the news 
immensely." 

" Very well, then; come on. It 's a secret, and if I tell you, 
you must tell me yours." 

" I hav n't got any," began Jo, but stopped suddenly, remem- 
bering that she had. 

" You know you have, you can't hide anything ; so up and 
'fess, or I won't tell," cried Laurie. 

" Is your secret a nice one ? " 

" Oh, is n't it ! all about people you know, and such fun ! 
You ought to hear it, and I 've been aching to tell it this long 
time. Come, you begin." 

" You '11 not say anything about it at home, will you ? " 

" Not a word." 

" And you won't tease me in private ? " 

" I never tease." 

" Yes, you do ; you get everything you want out of people. 
I don't know how you do it, but you are a born wheedler." 

" Thank you ; fire away." 

" Well, I 've left two stories with a newspaper man, and he 's 
to give his answer next week," whispered Jo, in her confidant's 
ear. 

" Hurrah for Miss March, the celebrated American au- 
thoress ! " cried Laurie, throwing up his hat and catching it 
again, to the great delight of two ducks, four cats, five hens, 
and half a dozen Irish children; for they were out of the 
city now. 

" Hush ! It won't come to anything, I dare say ; but I 



162 LITTLE WOMEN 

could n't rest till 1 had tried, and I said nothing about it, be- 
cause I did n't want any one else to be disappointed." 

44 It won't fail. Why, Jo, your stories are works of Shakes- 
peare, compared to half the rubbish that is published every day. 
Won't it be fun to see them in print ; and sha'n't we feel proud 
of our authoress ? " 

Jo's eyes sparkled, for it is always pleasant to be believed 
in ; and a friend's praise is always sweeter than a dozen news- 
paper puffs. 

" Where 's your secret ? Play fair, Teddy, or I '11 never 
believe you again," she said, trying to extinguish the brilliant 
hopes that blazed up at a word of encouragement. 

" I may get into a scrape for telling ; but I did n't promise 
not to, so I will, for I never feel easy in my mind till I've 
told you any plummy bit of news I get. I know where Meg's 
glove is." 

" Is that all ? " said Jo, looking disappointed, as Laurie nodded 
and twinkled, with a face full of mysterious intelligence. 

" It 's quite enough for the present, as you '11 agree when I 
tell you where it is." 

" Tell, then." 

Laurie bent, and whispered three words in Jo's ear, which 
produced a comical change. She stood and stared at him for a 
minute, looking both surprised and displeased, then walked on, 
saying sharply, " How do you know ? " 

" Saw it." 

"Where?" 

" Pocket." 

"All this time?" 

" Yes ; is n't that romantic? " 

" No, it 's horrid." 

"Don't you like it?" 

"Of course I don't. It 's ridiculous ; it won't be allowed. 
My patience ! what would Meg say ? " 

" You are not to tell any one ; mind that." 

" I did n't promise." 



LITTLE WOMEN 163 

"That was understood, and I trusted you." 

" Well, I won't for the present, any way ; but I'm disgusted, 
and wish you had n't told me." 

" I thought you 'd be pleased." 

"At the idea of anybody coming to take Meg away? No, 
thank you." 

" You '11 feel better about it when somebody comes to take 
you away." 

" I 'd like to see any one try it," cried Jo fiercely. 

" So should I ! " and Laurie chuckled at the idea. 

" I don't think secrets agree with me ; I feel rumpled up in 
my mind since you told me that," said Jo, rather ungratefully. 

" Race down this hill with me, and you '11 be all right," sug- 
gested Laurie. 

No one was in sight ; the smooth road sloped invitingly before 
her; and finding the temptation irresistible, Jo darted away, 
soon leaving hat and comb behind her, and scattering hair-pins 
as she ran. Laurie reached the goal first, and was quite satis- 
fied with the success of his treatment; for his Atalanta came 
panting up, with flying hair, bright eyes, ruddy cheeks, and no 
signs of dissatisfaction in her face. 

" I wish I was a horse ; then I could run for miles in this 
splendid air, and not lose my breath. It was capital; but see 
what a guy it 's made me. Go, pick up my things, like a cherub 
as you are," said Jo, dropping down under a maple-tree, which 
was carpeting the bank with crimson leaves. 

Laurie leisurely departed to recover the lost property, and 
Jo bundled up her braids, hoping no one would pass by till 
she was tidy again. But some one did pass, and who should 
it be but Meg, looking particularly ladylike in her state and 
festival suit, for she had been making calls. 

" What in the world are you doing here ? " she asked regard- 
ing her dishevelled sister with well-bred surprise. 

" Getting leaves," meekly answered Jo, sorting the rosy hand- 
ful she had just swept up. 

" And hair-pins," added Laurie, throwing half a dozen into 



164 LITTLE WOMEN 

Jo's lap. " They grow on this road, Meg ; so do combs and 
brown straw hats." 

You have been running, Jo; how could you? When will 
you stop such romping ways ? " said Meg reprovingly, as she 
settled her cuffs, and smoothed her hair, with which the wind 
had taken liberties. 

" Never till I 'm stiff and old, and have to use a crutch. Don't 
try to make me grow up before my time, Meg ; it 's hard enough 
to have you change all of a sudden; let me be a little girl as 
long as I can." 

As she spoke, Jo bent over the leaves to hide the trembling 
of her lips, for lately she had felt that Margaret was fast getting 
to be a woman, and Laurie's secret made her dread the separa- 
tion which must surely come some time, and now seemed very 
near. He saw the trouble in her face, and drew Meg's attention 
from it by asking quickly, " Where have you been calling, all 
so fine?" 

" At the Gardiners', and Sallie has been telling me all about 
Belle Moffat's wedding. It was very splendid, and they have 
gone to spend the winter in Paris. Just think how delightful 
that must be ! " 

" Do you envy her, Meg ? " said Laurie. 

" I 'm afraid I do. " 

" I 'm glad of it ! " muttered Jo, tying on her hat with a jerk. 

" Why ? " asked Meg, looking surprised. 

" Because if you care much about riches, you will never go 
and marry a poor man," said Jo, frowning at Laurie, who was 
mutely warning her to mind what she said. 

" I shall never ' go and marry ' any one," observed Meg, 
walking on with great dignity, while the others followed, laugh- 
ing, whispering, skipping stones, and " behaving like children," 
as Meg said to herself, though she might have been tempted 
to join them if she had not had her best dress on. 

For a week or two, Jo behaved so queerly that her sisters 
were quite bewildered. She rushed to the door when the post- 
man rang ; was rude to Mr. Brooke whenever they met ; would 



LITTLE WOMEN 165 

sit looking at Meg with a woebegone face, occasionally jumping 
up to shake, and then to kiss her, in a very mysterious manner ; 
Laurie and she were always making signs to one another, and 
talking about " Spread Eagles," till the girls declared they had 
both lost their wits. On the second Saturday after Jo got 
out of the window, Meg, as she sat sewing at her window, was 
scandalized by the sight of Laurie chasing Jo all over the garden, 
and finally capturing her in Amy's bower. What went on there, 
Meg could not see; but shrieks of laughter were heard, fol- 
lowed by the murmur of voices and a great flapping of news- 
papers. 

" What shall we do with that girl ? She never will behave 
like a young lady/' sighed Meg, as she watched the race with 
a disapproving face. 

" I hope she won't ; she is so funny and dear as she is," said 
Beth, who had never betrayed that she was a little hurt at Jo's 
having secrets with any one but her. 

" It 's very trying, but we never can make her commy la fo" 
added Amy, who sat making some new frills for herself, with 
her curls tied up in a very becoming way, two agreeable 
things, which made her feel unusually elegant and ladylike. 

In a few minutes Jo bounced in, laid herself on the sofa, and 
affected to read. 

" Have you anything interesting there ? " asked Meg with 
condescension. 

" Nothing but a story ! won't amount to much, I guess," re- 
turned Jo, carefully keeping the name of the paper out of sight. 

" You 'd better read it aloud ; that will amuse us and keep 
you out of mischief," said Amy, in her most grown-up tone. 

"What's the name?" asked Beth, wondering why Jo kept 
her face behind the sheet. 

" The Rival Painters." 

" That sounds well ; read it," said Meg. 

With a loud " Hem I " and a long breath, Jo began to read 
very fast. The girls listened with interest, for the tale was 



166 LITTLE WOMEN 

romantic, somewhat pathetic, as most of the characters died in 
;he end. 

" I like that about the splendid picture," was Amy's approv- 
ing remark, as Jo paused. 

" I prefer the lovering part. Viola and Angelo are two of 
our favorite names ; is n't that queer ? " said Meg, wiping her 
eyes, for the " lovering part " was tragical. 

" Who wrote it ? " asked Beth, who had caught a glimpse of 
Jo's face. 

The reader suddenly sat up, cast away the paper, displaying 
a flushed countenance, and, with a funny mixture of solemnity 
and excitement, replied in a loud voice, " Your sister." 

" You ? " cried Meg, dropping her work. 

" It 's very good," said Amy critically. 

" I knew it ! I knew it ! O my Jo, I am so proud ! " and 
Beth ran to hug her sister, and exult over this splendid success. 

Dear me, how delighted they all were, to be sure ! how Meg 
would n't believe it till she saw the words, " Miss Josephine 
March," actually printed in the paper; how graciously Amy 
criticised the artistic parts of the story, and offered hints for a 
sequel, which unfortunately couldn't be carried out, as the 
hero and heroine were dead ; how Beth got excited, and skipped 
and sung with joy ; how Hannah came in to exclaim " Sakes 
alive, well I never ! " in great astonishment at " that Jo's 
doin's ; " how proud Mrs. March was when she knew it ; how Jo 
laughed with tears in her eyes, as she declared she might as well 
be a peacock and done with it ; and how the " Spread Eagle " 
might be said to flap his wings triumphantly over the House of 
March, as the paper passed from hand to hand. 

" Tell us all about it." " When did it come ? " " How much 
did you get for it?" "What will father say?" "Won't 
Laurie laugh ? " cried the family, all in one breath, as they 
clustered about Jo ; for these foolish, affectionate people made 
jubilee of every little household joy. 

" Stop jabbering, girls, and I '11 tell you everything," said 
Jo, wondering if Miss Burney felt any grander over her 



LITTLE WOMEN 167 

" Evelina " than she did over her " Rival Painters." Having 
told how she disposed of her tales, Jo added, " And when I 
went to get my answer, the man said he liked them both, but 
didn't pay beginners, only let them print in his paper, and noticed 
the stories. It was good practice, he said; and when the be- 
ginners improved, any one would pay. So I let him have the 
two stories, and to-day this was sent to me, and Laurie caught 
me with it, and insisted on seeing it, so I let him ; and he said 
it was good, and I shall write more, and he 's going to get the 
next paid for, and I am so happy, for in time I may be able 
to support myself and help the girls." 

Jo's breath gave out here; and, wrapping her head in the 
paper, she bedewed her little story with a few natural tears; 
for to be independent, and earn the praise of those she loved 
were the dearest wishes of her heart, and this seemed to be 
the first step toward that happy end. 



CHAPTER XV. 

A TELEGRAM. 

" NOVEMBER is the most disagreeable month in the whole 
year," said Margaret, standing at the window one dull after- 
noon, looking out at the frost-bitten garden. 

" That 's the reason I was born in it," observed Jo pensively, 
quite unconscious of the blot on her nose. 

"If something very pleasant should happen now, we should 
think it a delightful month," said Beth, who took a hopeful 
view of everything, even November. 

" I dare say ; but nothing pleasant ever does happen in this 
family," said Meg, who was out of sorts. " We go grubbing 
along day after day, without a bit of change, and very little 
fun. We might as well be in a treadmill. 

" My patience, how blue we are ! " cried Jo. " I don't much 
wonder, poor dear, for you see other girls having splendid 



LITTLE WOME1SJ 

times, while you grind, grind, year in and year out. Oh, don't 
I wish I could manage things for you as I do for my heroines ! 
You 're pretty enough and good enough already, so I 'd have 
some rich relation leave you a fortune unexpectedly ; then you 'd 
dash out as an heiress, scorn every one who has slighted you, 
go abroad, and come home my lady Something, in a blaze of 
splendor and elegance." 

" People don't have fortunes left them in that style now-a- 
days ; men have to work, and women to marry for money. It 's 
a dreadfully unjust world," said Meg bitterly. 

" Jo and I are going to make fortunes for you all ; just wait 
ten years, and see if we don't," said Amy, who sat in a corner, 
making mud pies, as Hannah called her little clay models of 
birds, fruit, and faces. 

" Can't wait, and I 'm afraid I have n't much faith in ink and 
dirt, though I 'm grateful for your intentions." 

Meg sighed, and turned to the frost-bitten garden again ; Jo 
groaned, and leaned both elbows on the table in a despondent 
attitude, but Amy spatted away energetically; and Beth, who 
sat at the other window, said, smiling, " Two pleasant things are 
going to happen right away : Marmee is coming down the street, 
and Laurie is tramping through the garden as if he had some- 
thing nice to tell." 

In they both came, Mrs. March with her usual question, 
" Any letter from father, girls ? " and Laurie to say in his per- 
suasive way, " Won't some of you come for a drive. I 've been 
working away at mathematics till my head is in a muddle, 
and I 'm going to freshen my wits by a brisk turn. It 's a 
dull day, but the air is n't bad, and I 'm going to take Brooke 
home, so it will be gay inside, if it isn't out. Come, Jo, 
you and Beth will go, won't you ? " 

" Of course we will." 

" Much obliged, but I 'm busy ; " and Meg whisked out her 
work-basket, for she had agreed with her mother that it was 
best, for her at least, not to drive often with the young gentle- 
man. 



LITTLE WOMEN 169 

" We three will be ready in a minute," cried Amy, running 
away to wash her hands. 

"Can I do anything for you, Madam Mother?" asked 
Laurie, leaning over Mrs. March's chair, with the affectionate 
look and tone he always gave her. 

" No, thank you, except call at the office, if you '11 be so kind, 
dear. It 's our day for a letter, and the postman has n't been. 
Father is as regular as the sun ; there 's some delay on the way, 
perhaps." 

A sharp ring interrupted her, and a minute after Hannah 
came in with a letter. 

" It 's one of them horrid telegraph things, mum," she said, 
handing it as if she was afraid it would explode and do some 
damage. 

At the word " telegraph," Mrs. March snatched it, read the 
two lines it contained, and dropped back into her chair as white 
as if the little paper had sent a bullet to her heart. Laurie 
dashed down stairs for water, while Meg and Hannah supported 
her, and Jo read aloud, in a frightened voice, 

" MRS. MARCH : 

" Your husband is very ill. Come at once. 

" S. HALE, 
" Blank Hospital, Washington." 

How still the room was as they listened breathlessly, how 
strangely the day darkened outside, and how suddenly the 
whole world seemed to change, as the girls gathered about 
their mother, feeling as if all the happiness and support of 
their lives was about to be taken from them. Mrs. March was 
herself again directly ; read the message over, and stretched out 
her arms to her daughters, saying, in a tone they never for- 
got, " I shall go at once, but it may be too late. O children, 
children, help me to bear it ! " 

For several minutes there was nothing but the sound of 
sobbing in the room, mingled with broken words of comfortj 



170 T.TTTLE WOMEN 

tender assurances of help, and hopeful whispers that died away 
in tears. Poor Hannah was the first to recover, and with un- 
conscious wisdom she set all the rest a good example ; for, with 
her, work was the panacea for most afflictions. 

" The Lord keep the dear man ! I won't waste no time a 
cryin', but git your things ready right away, mum," she said 
heartily, as she wiped her face on her apron, gave her mistress 
a warm shake of the hand with her own hard one, and went 
away, to work like three women in one. 

" She 's right ; there 's no time for tears now. Be calm, girls, 
and let me think." 

They tried to be calm, poor things, as their mother sat up, 
looking pale, but steady, and put away her grief to think and 
plan for them. 

" Where 's Laurie ? " she asked presently, when she had col- 
lected her thoughts, and decided on the first duties to be done. 

" Here, ma'am. Oh, let me do something ! " cried the boy, 
hurrying from the next room, whither he had withdrawn, feel- 
ing that their first sorrow was too sacred for even his friendly 
eyes to see. 

" Send a telegram saying I will come at once. The next 
train goes early in the morning. I '11 take that." 

" What else ? The horses are ready ; I can go anywhere, do 
anything," he said, looking ready to fly to the ends of the earth. 

" Leave a note at Aunt March's. Jo, give me that pen and 
paper." 

Tearing off the blank side of one of her newly copied pages, 
Jo drew the table before her mother, well knowing that money 
for the long, sad journey must be borrowed, and feeling as if 
she could do anything to add a little to the sum for her father. 

" Now go, dear ; but don't kill yourself driving at a desperate 
pace; there is no need of that." 

Mrs. March's warning was evidently thrown away; for five 
minutes later Laurie tore by the window on his own fleet horse, 
riding as if for his life. 

" Jo, run to the rooms, and tell Mrs. King that I can't come 



LITTLE WOMEN 171 

On the way get these things. I '11 put them down ; they '11 
be needed, and I must go prepared for nursing. Hospital 
stores are not always good. Beth, go and ask Mr. Laurence for 
a couple of bottles of old wine : I 'm not too proud to beg for 
father ; he shall have the best of everything. Amy, tell Hannah 
to get down the black trunk ; and, Meg, come and help me find 
my things, for I 'm half bewildered." 

Writing, thinking, and directing, all at once, might well be- 
wilder the poor lady, and Meg begged her to sit quietly in her 
room for a little while, and let them work. Every one scattered 
like leaves before a gust of wind; and the quiet, happy house- 
hold was broken up as suddenly as if the paper had been an 
evil spell. 

Mr. Laurence came hurrying back with Beth, bringing every 
comfort the kind old gentleman could think of for the invalid, 
and friendliest promises of protection for the girls during the 
mother's absence, which comforted her very much. There was 
nothing he did n't offer, from his own dressing-gown to him- 
self as escort. But that last was impossible. Mrs. March would 
not hear of the old gentleman's undertaking the long journey; 
yet an expression of relief was visible when he spoke of it, for 
anxiety ill fits one for travelling. He saw the look, knit his 
heavy eyebrows, rubbed his hands, and marched abruptly away, 
saying he 'd be back directly. No one had time to think of 
him again till, as Meg ran through the entry, with a pair of 
rubbers in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, she came 
suddenly upon Mr. Brooke. 

" I 'm very sorry to hear of this, Miss March," he said, in 
the kind, quiet tone which sounded very pleasantly to her per- 
turbed spirit. " I came to offer myself as escort to your 
mother. Mr. Laurence has commissions for me in Washington, 
and it will give me real satisfaction to be of service to her 
there." 

Down dropped the rubbers, and the tea was very near follow- 
ing, as Meg put out her hand, with a face so full of gratitude, 
that Mr. Brooke would have felt repaid for a much greater 



LITTLE WOMEN 

sacrifice than the trifling one of time and comfort which he 
was about to make. 

" How kind you all are ! Mother will accept, I 'm sure ; and 
it will be such a relief to know that she has some one to take 
care of her. Thank you very, very much ! " 

Meg spoke earnestly, and forgot herself entirely till some- 
thing in the brown eyes looking down at her made her remember 
the cooling tea, and lead the way into the parlor, saying she 
would call her mother. 

Everything was arranged by the time Laurie returned with a 
note from Aunt March, enclosing the desired sum, and a few 
lines repeating what she had often said before, that she had 
always told them it was absurd for March to go into the army, 
always predicted that no good would come of it, and she hoped 
they would take her advice next time. Mrs. March put the 
note in the fire, the money in her purse, and went on with her 
preparations, with her lips folded tightly, in a way which Jo 
would have understood if she had been there. 

The short afternoon wore away; all the other errands were 
done, and Meg and her mother busy at some necessary needle- 
work while Beth and Amy got tea, and Hannah finished her 
ironing with what she called a " slap and a bang," but still Jo 
did not come. They began to get anxious; and Laurie went 
off to find her, for no one ever knew what freak Jo might take 
into her head. He missed her, however, and she came walking 
in with a very queer expression of countenance, for there was 
a mixture of fun and fear, satisfaction and regret, in it, which 
puzzled the family as much as did the roll of bills she laid be- 
fore her mother, saying, with a little choke in her voice, 
" That 's my contribution towards making father comfortable 
and bringing him home ! " 

" My dear, where did you get it? Twenty-five dollars! Jo, 
I hope you have n't done anything rash ? " 

" No, it 's mine honestly ; I did n't beg, borrow, or steal it. 
I earned it ! and I don't think you '11 blame me, for I only sold 
what was my 



LITTLE WOMEN 173 

As she spoke, Jo took off her bonnet, and a general outcry 
arose, for all her abundant hair was cut short. 

" Your hair ! Your beautiful hair ! " " Oh Jo, how could 
you ? Your one beauty." " My dear girl, there was no need 
of this.' 1 " She does n't look like my Jo any more, but I. love 
her dearly for it ! " 

As every one exclaimed, and Beth hugged the cropped head 
tenderly, Jo assumed an indifferent air, which did not deceive 
any one a particle, and said, rumpling up the brown bush, and 
trying to look as if she liked it, " It does n't affect the fate 
of the nation, so don't wail, Beth. It will be good for my vanity ; 
I was getting too proud of my wig. It will do my brains good 
to have that mop taken off ; my head feels deliciously light and 
cool, and the barber said I could soon have a curly crop, which 
will be boyish, becoming, and easy to keep in order. I 'm satis- 
fied ; so please take the money, and let 's have supper." 

" Tell me all about it, Jo. / am not quite satisfied, but I 
can't blame you, for I know how willingly you sacrificed your 
vanity, as you call it, to your love. But, my dear, it was not 
necessary, and I 'm afraid you will regret it, one of these days," 
said Mrs. March. 

" No, I won't ! " returned Jo stoutly, feeling much relieved 
that her prank was not entirely condemned. 

" What made you do it ? " asked Amy, who would as soon 
have thought of cutting off her head as her pretty hair. 

" Well, I was wild to do something for father," replied Jo, 
as they gathered about the table, for healthy young people can 
eat even in the midst of trouble. " I hate to borrow as much 
as mother does, and I knew Aunt March would croak; she 
always does, if you ask for a ninepence. Meg gave all her quar- 
terly salary toward the rent, and I only got some clothes with 
mine, so I felt wicked, and was bound to have some money, 
if I sold the nose off my face to get it." 

" You need n't feel wicked, my child : you had no winter 
things, and got the simplest with your own hard earnings," 
said Mrs. March, with a look that warmed Jo's heart. 



174 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I had n't the least idea of selling my hair at first, but as 
I went along I kept thinking what I could do, and feeling as 
if I 'd like to dive into some of the rich stores and help myself. 
In a barber's window I saw tails of hair with the prices marked ; 
and one black tail, not so thick as mine, was forty dollars. It 
came over me all of a sudden that I had one thing to make 
money out of, and without stopping to think, I walked in, asked 
if they bought hair, and what they would give for mine." 

" I don't see how you dared to do it," said Beth, in a tone 
of awe. 

" Oh, he was a little man who looked as if he merely lived 
to oil his hair. He rather stared, at first, as if he was n't used 
to having girls bounce into his shop and ask him to buy their 
hair. He said he did n't care about mine, it was n't the fashion- 
able color, and he never paid much for it in the first place ; the 
work put into it made it dear, and so on. It was getting late, 
and I was afraid, if it was n't done right away, that I should n't 
have it done at all, and you know when I start to do a thing, I 
hate to give it up ; so I begged him to take it, and told him why 
I was in such a hurry. It was silly, I dare say, but it changed 
his mind, for I got rather excited, and told the story in my 
topsy-turvy way, and his wife heard, and said so kindly, 

" ' Take it, Thomas, and oblige the young lady ; I 'd do as 
much for our Jimmy any day if I had a spire of hair worth 
selling.' " 

" Who was Jimmy? " asked Amy, who liked to have things 
explained as they went along. 

" Her son, she said, who was in the army. How friendly such 
things make strangers feel, don't they? She talked away all 
the time the man clipped, and diverted my mind nicely." 

" Did n't you feel dreadfully when the first cut came ? " asked 
Meg, with a shiver. 

" I took a last look at my hair while the man got his things, 
and that was the end of it. I never snivel over trifles like that ; 
I will confess, though, I felt queer when I saw the dear old 
hair laid out on the table, and felt only the short, rough ends 



LITTLE WOMEN 175 

on my head It almost seemed as if I 'd an arm or a \tg off. 
The woman raw me look at it, and picked out a long lock for 
me to keep. I '11 give it to you, Marmee, just to remember past 
glories by; for a crop is so comfortable I don't think i shall 
ever have a mane again." 

Airs. March folded the wavy chestnut lock, and laid it away 
with a short gray one in her desk. She only said " Thank you, 
deary," but something in her face made the girls change the 
subject, and talk as cheerfully as they could about Mr. Brooke's 
kindness, the prospect of a fine day to-morrow, and the happy 
times they would have when father came home to be nursed. 

No one wanted to go to bed, when, at ten o'clock, Mrs. 
March put by the last finished job, and said, " Come, girls." 
Beth went to the piano, and played the father's favorite hymn ; 
all began bravely, but broke down one by one, till Beth was 
left alone, singing with all her heart, for to her music was 
always a sweet consoler. 

" Go to bed and don't talk, for we must be up early, and shall 
need all the sleep we can get. Good-night, my darlings," said 
Mrs. March, as the hymn ended, for no one cared to try another. 

They kissed her quietly, and went to bed as silently as if the 
dear invalid lay in the next room. Beth and Amy soon fell 
asleep in spite of the great trouble, but Meg lay awake, thinking 
the most serious thoughts she had ever known in her short 
life. Jo lay motionless, and her sister fancied that she was 
asleep, till a stifled sob made her exclaim, as she touched a wet 
cheek, 

" Jo, dear, what is it ? Are you crying about father ? " 

" No, not now." 

"What then?" 

" My my hair ! " burst out poor Jo, trying vainly to 
smother her emotion in the pillow. 

It did not sound at all comical to Meg, who kissed and 
caressed the afflicted heroine in the tenderest manner. 

" I 'm not sorry," protested Jo, with a choke. " I Vi do it 
again to-morrow, if I could. It 's only the vain selfish part of 



176 LITTLE WOMEN 

me that goes and cries in this silly way. Don't tell any one, it 'a 
all over now. I thought you were asleep, so I just made a little 
private moan for my one beauty. How came you to be awake ? " 
" I can't sleep, I 'm so anxious," said Meg. 
" Think about something pleasant, and you '11 soon drop off." 
" I tried it, but felt wider awake than ever." 
"What did you think of?" 

" Handsome faces, eyes particularly," answered Meg, smil- 
ing to herself, in the dark. 

" What color do you like best? " 
" Brown that is, sometimes ; blue are lovely." 
Jo laughed, and Meg sharply ordered her not to talk, then 
amiably promised to make her hair curl, and fell asleep to dream 
of living in her castle in the air. 

The clocks were striking midnight, and the rooms were very 
still, as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a 
coverlid here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long 
and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips 
that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only 
mothers utter. As she lifted the curtain to look out into the 
dreary night, the moon broke suddenly from behind the clouds, 
and shone upon her like a bright, benignant face, which seemed 
to whisper in the silence, " Be comforted, dear soul ! There 
is always light behind the clouds." 



CHAPTER XVI. 

LETTERS. 

IN the cold gray dawn the sisters lit their lamp, and read 
their chapter with an earnestness never felt before; for now 
the shadow of a real trouble had come, the little books were 
full of help and comfort; and, as they dressed, they agreed to 
say good-by cheerfully and hopefully, and send their mother 
on her anxious journey unsaddened by tears or complaints from 



LITTLE WOMEN 177 

them. Everything seemed very strange when they went down, 
so dim and still outside, so full of light and bustle within. 
Breakfast at that early hour seemed odd, and even Hannah's 
familiar face looked unnatural as she flew about her kitchen 
with her night-cap on. The big trunk stood ready in the hall, 
mother's cloak and bonnet lay on the sofa, and mother herself 
sat trying to eat, but looking so pale and worn with sleepless- 
ness and anxiety that the girls found it very hard to keep their 
resolution. Meg's eyes kept filling in spite of herself ; Jo was 
obliged to hide her face in the kitchen roller more than once; 
and the little girls wore a grave, troubled expression, as if 
sorrow was a new experience to them. 

Nobody talked much, but as the time drew very near, and 
they sat waiting for the carriage, Mrs. March said to the girls, 
who were all busied about her, one folding her shawl, another 
smoothing out the strings of her bonnet, a third putting on her 
overshoes, and a fourth fastening up her travelling bag, 

" Children, I leave you to Hannah's care and Mr. Laurence's 
protection. Hannah is faithfulness itself, and our good neigh- 
bor will guard you as if you were his own. I have no fears 
for you, yet I am anxious that you should take this trouble 
rightly. Don't grieve and fret when I am gone, or think that 
you can comfort yourselves by being idle and trying to forget. 
Go on with your work as usual, for work is a blessed solace. 
Hope and keep busy; and whatever happens, remember that 
you never can be fatherless." 

" Yes, mother." 

" Meg, dear, be prudent, watch over your sisters, consult 
Hannah, and, in any perplexity, go to Mr. Laurence. Be patient, 
Jo, don't get despondent or do rash things ; write to me often, 
and be my brave girl, ready to help and cheer us all. Beth, 
comfort yourself with your music, and be faithful to the little 
home duties ; and you, Amy, help all you can, be obedient, and 
keep happy safe at home." 

" We will, mother ! we will ! " 

The rattle of an approaching carriage made them all start 



i;8 LITTLE WOMEN 

and listen. That was the hard minute, but the girls stood it 
well: no one cried, no one ran away or uttered a lamentation, 
though their hearts were very heavy as they sent loving ;nes- 
sages to father, remembering, as they spoke, that it might be 
too late to deliver them. They kissed their mother quietly, 
clung about her tenderly, and tried to wave their hands cheer- 
fully when she drove away. 

Laurie and his grandfather came over to see her off, and 
Mr. Brooke looked so strong and sensible and kind that the 
girls christened him " Mr. Greatheart " on the spot. 

" Good-by, my darlings ! God bless and keep us all ! " 
whispered Mrs. March, as she kissed one dear little face after 
the other, and hurried into the carriage. 

As she rolled away, the sun came out, and, looking back, she 
saw it shining on the group at the gate, like a good omen. 
They saw it also, and smiled and waved their hands ; and the 
last thing she beheld, as she turned the corner, was the four 
bright faces, and behind them, like a body-guard, old Mr. Laur- 
ence, faithful Hannah, and devoted Laurie. 

' How kind every one is to us ! " she said, turning to find 
fresh proof of it in the respectful sympathy of the young man's 
face. 

" I don't see how they can help it," returned Mr. Brooke, 
laughing so infectiously that Mrs. March could not help smil- 
ing; and so the long journey began with the good omens of 
sunshine, smiles, and cheerful words. 

" I feel as if there had been an earthquake," said Jo, as their 
neighbors went home to breakfast, leaving them to rest and 
refresh themselves. 

" It seems as if half the house was gone," added Meg for- 
lornly. 

Beth opened her lips to say something, but could only point 
to the pile of nicely-mended hose which lay on mother's table, 
showing that even in her last hurried moments she had thought 
and worked for them. It was a little thing, but it went straight 



LITTLE WOMEN 179 

la their hearts: and, in spite of their brave resolutions, they 
all broke down, and cried bitterly. 

Hannah wisely allowed them to relieve their feelings, and, 
when the shower showed signs of clearing up, she came to the 
rescue, armed with a coffee-pot. 

" Now, my dear young ladies, remember what your ma said, 
and don't fret. Come and have a cup of coffee all round, and 
then let's fall to work, and be a credit to the family." 

Coffee was a treat, and Hannah showed great tact in making 
it that morning. No one could resist her persuasive nods, or 
the fragrant invitation issuing from the nose of the coffee-pot. 
They drew up to the table, exchanged their handkerchiefs for 
napkins, and in ten minutes were all right again. 

" ' Hope and keep busy ; ' that 's the motto for us, so let 's 
see who will remember it best. I shall go to Aunt March, as 
usual. Oh, won't she lecture though ! " said Jo, as she sipped 
with returning spirit. 

" I shall go to my Kings, though I 'd much rather stay at 
home and attend to things here," said Meg, wishing she had n't 
made her eyes so red. 

" No need of that ; Beth and I can keep house perfectly well," 
put in Amy, with an important air. 

" Hannah will tell us what to do ; and we '11 have everything 
nice when you come home," added Beth, getting out her mop 
and dish-tub without delay. 

" I think anxiety is very interesting," observed Amy, eating 
sugar, pensively. 

The girls couldn't help laughing, and felt better for it, 
though Meg shook her head at the young lady who could find 
consolation in a sugar-bowl. 

The sight of the turnovers made Jo sober again; and when 
the two went out to their daily tasks, they looked sorrowfully 
back at the window where they were accustomed to see their 
mother's face. It was gone; but Beth had remembered the 
little household ceremony, and there she was. nodding away a$ 
them like a rosy-faced mandarin. 



i8o LITTLE WOMEN 

" That's so like my Beth ! " said Jo, waving her hat, with a 
grateful face. " Good-by, Meggy; I hope the Kings won't 
trair. to-day. Don't fret about father, dear," she added, as 
they parted. 

" And I hope Aunt March won't croak. Your hair is be- 
coming, and it looks very boyish and nice," returned Meg, try- 
ing not to smile at the curly head, which looked comically small 
on her tall sister's shoulders. 

" That 's my only comfort ; " and, touching her hat a la 
Laurie, away went Jo, feeling like a shorn sheep on a wintry 
day. 

News from their father comforted the girls very much ; for, 
though dangerously ill, the presence of the best and lenderest 
of nurses had already done him good. Mr. Brooke sent a 
bulletin every day, and, as the head of the family, Meg insisted 
on reading the despatches, which grew more and more cheering 
as the week passed. At first, every one was eager to write, and 
plump envelopes were carefully poked into the letter-box by 
one or other of the sisters, who felt rather important with 
their Washington correspondence. As one of these packets 
contained characteristic notes from the party, we will rob an 
imaginary mail, and read them: 

" MY DEAREST MOTHER, 

" It is impossible to tell you how happy your last letter made 
us, for the news was so good we could n't help laughing and 
crying over it. How very kind Mr. Brooke is, and how for- 
tunate that Mr. Laurence's business detains him near you so 
long, since he is so useful to you and father. The girls are all 
as good as gold. Jo helps me with the sewing, and insists on 
doing all sorts of hard jobs. I should be afraid she might 
overdo, if I did n't know that her ' moral fit ' would n't last 
long. Beth is as regular about her tasks as a clock, and never 
forgets what you told her. She grieves about father, and looks 
sober except when she is at her little piano. Amy minds me 
nicely, and I take great care of her. She does her own hair, 



LITTLE WOMEN 181 

and I am teaching her to make button-holes and mend her 
stockings. She tries very hard, and I know you will be pleased 
with her improvement when you come. Mr. Laurence watches 
over us like a motherly old hen, as Jo says ; and Laurie is very 
kind and neighborly. He and Jo keep us merry, for we gel 
pretty blue sometimes, and feel like orphans, with you so far 
away. Hannah is a perfect saint; she does not scold at all, 
and always calls me Miss ' Margaret/ which is quite proper, 
you know, and treats me with respect. We are all well and 
busy ; but we long, day and night, to have you back. Give my 
dearest love to father, and believe me, ever your own 

" MEG." 

This note, prettily written on scented paper, was a great con- 
trast to the next, which was scribbled on a big sheet of thin 
foreign paper, ornamented with blots and all manner of 
flourishes and curly-tailed letters : 

" MY PRECIOUS MARMEE, 

" Three cheers for dear father ! Brooke was a trump to tele- 
graph right off, and let us know the minute he was better. I 
rushed up garret when the letter came, and tried to thank God 
for being so good to us ; but I could only cry, and say, ' I 'm 
glad ! I 'm glad ! ' Did n't that do as well as a regular prayer ? 
for I felt a great many in my heart. We have such funny times ; 
and now I can enjoy them, for every one is so desperately 
good, it 's like living in a nest of turtle-doves. You 'd laugh to 
see Meg head the table and try to be motherish. She gets 
prettier every day, and I 'm in love with her sometimes. The 
children are regular archangels, and I well, I'm Jo, and 
never shall be anything else. Oh, I must tell you that I came 
near having a quarrel with Laurie. I freed my mind about a 
silly little thing, and he was offended. I was right, but did n't 
speak as I ought, and he marched home, saying he would n't 
come again till I begged pardon. I declared I would n't, and got 
mad. It lasted all day ; I felt bad, and wanted you very much. 
Laurie and I are both so proud, it 's hard to beg pardon ; but I 



182 LITTLE WOMEN 

thought he J d come to it, for I was in the right. He did n't 
come ; and just at night I remembered what you said when Amy 
fell into the river. I read my little book, felt better, resolved not 
to let the sun set on my anger, and ran over to tell Laurie I wa? 
sorry. I met him at the gate, coming for the same thing. We 
both laughed, begged each other's pardon, and felt all good and 
comfortable again. 

" I made a ' pome ' yesterday, when I was helping Kannab 
wash; and, as father likes my silly little things, I put it in tc 
amuse him. Give him the lovingest hug that ever was, and kiss* 
yourself a dozen times for your 

" TOPSY-TURVY Jo/ 

" A SONG FROM THE SUDS. 

" Queen of my tub, I merrily sing, 

While the white foam rises high; 
And sturdily wash and rinse and wring, 

And fasten the clothes to dry; 
Then out in the free fresh air they swing. 
Under the sunny sky. 

" I wish we could wash from our hearts and souls 

The stains of the week away, 
And let water and air by their magic make 

Ourselves as pure as they; 
Then on the earth there would be indeed 

A glorious washing-day! 

"Along the path of a useful life, 

Will heart's-ease ever bloom; 
The busy mind has no time to think 

Of sorrow or care or gloom; 
And anxious thoughts may be swept away, 

As we bravely wield a broom. 

* I am glad a task to me is given, 

To labor at day by day; 

For it brings me health and strength and hope, 
And I cheerfully learn to say, 



LITTLE WOMEN 183 

'Head, you may think, Heart you may feel, 
But, Hand, you shall work alway ! ' " 

" DEAR MOTHER, 

" There is only room for me to send my love, and some 
pressed pansies from the root I have been keeping safe in the 
house for father to see. I read every morning, try to be good 
all day, and sing myself to sleep with father's tune. I can't 
sing ' Land of the Leal ' now ; it makes me cry. Every one is 
very kind, and we are as happy as we can be without you. 
Amy wants the rest of the page, so I must stop. I did n't for- 
get to cover the holders, and I wind the clock and air the rooms 
every day. 

" Kiss dear father on the cheek he calls mine. Oh, do come 
soon to your loving 

" LITTLE BETH." 

" MA CHERE MAMMA, 

" We are all well I do my lessons always and never cor- 
roberate the girls Meg says I mean contradick so I put in 
both words and you can take the properest. Meg is a great 
comfort to me and lets me have jelly every night at tea its 
so good for me Jo says because it keeps me sweet tempered. 
Laurie is not as respeckful as he ought to be now I am almost 
in my teens, he calls me Chick and hurts my feelings by talking 
French to me very fast when I say Merci or Bon jour as 
Hattie King does. The sleeves of my blue dress were all worn 
out, and Meg put in new ones, but the full front came wrong 
and they are more blue than the dress. I felt bad but did not 
fret I bear my troubles well but I do wish Hannah would put 
more starch in my aprons and have buckwheats every day. 
Can't she? Did n't I make that interrigation point nice? Meg 
says my punchtuation and spelling are disgraceful and I am 
mortyfied but dear me I have so many things to do, I can't stop. 
Adieu, I send heaps of love to Papa. 

" Your affectionate daughter, 

"AMY CURTIS MARCH." 



184 LITTLE WOMEN 

"DEAR Mis MARCH, 

" I jes drop a line to say we git on fust rate. The girls is 
clever and fly around right smart. Miss Meg is going to make 
a proper good housekeeper; she hes the liking for it, and gits 
the hang of things surprisin' quick. Jo doos beat all for goin 
ahead, but she don't stop to cal'k'late fust, and you never know 
where she 's like to bring up. She done out a tub of clothes 
on Monday, but she starched em afore they was wrenched, and 
blued a pink calico dress till I thought I should a died a laughin. 
Beth is the best of little creeters, and a sight of help to me, 
bein so forehanded and dependable. She tries to learn every- 
thing, and really goes to market beyond her years; likewise 
keeps accounts, with my help, quite wonderful. We have got 
on very economical so fur ; I don't let the girls hev coffee only 
once a week, according to your wish, and keep em on plain 
wholesome vittles. Amy does well about frettin, wearin her 
best clothes and eatin sweet stuff. Mr. Laurie is as full of 
didoes as usual, and turns the house upside down frequent; 
but he heartens up the girls, and so I let em hev full swing. 
The old gentleman sends heaps of things, and is rather wearin, 
but means wal, and it aint my place to say nothin. My bread 
is riz, so no more at this time. I send my duty to Mr. March 
and hope he 's seen the last of his Pewmonia. 
Yours Respectful, 

" HANNAH MULLET." 
" HEAD NURSE OF WARD No. 2, 

" All serene on the Rappahannock, troops in fine condition, 
commissary department well conducted, the Home Guard under 
Colonel Teddy always on duty, Commander-in-chief General 
Laurence reviews the army daily, Quartermaster Mullett keeps 
order in camp, and Major Lion does picket duty at night. A 
salute of twenty-four guns was fired on receipt of good news 
from Washington, and a dress parade took place at head- 
quarters. Commander-in-chief sends best wishes, in which he 
is heartily joined by 

" COLONEL TEDDY." 



LITTLE WOMEN 185 

* DEAR MADAM, 

*' The little girls are all well ; Beth and my boy report daily : 
Hannah is a model servant, and guards pretty Meg like a 
dragon. Glad the fine weather holds ; pray make Brooke useful, 
and draw on me for funds if expenses exceed your estimate. 
Don't let your husband want anything. Thank God he is mend- 
ing. 

" Your sincere friend and servant, 

" JAMES LAURENCE." 



CHAPTER XVII. 

LITTLE FAITHFUL. 

FOR a week the amount of virtue in the old house would have 
supplied the neighborhood. It was really amazing, for every 
one seemed in a heavenly frame of mind, and self-denial was 
all the fashion. Relieved of their first anxiety about their 
father, the girls insensibly relaxed their praiseworthy efforts 
a little, and began to fall back into the old ways. They did not 
forget their motto, but hoping and keeping busy seemed to 
grow easier; and after such tremendous exertions, they felt 
that Endeavor deserved a holiday, and gave it a good many. 

Jo caught a bad cold through neglect to cover the shorn head 
enough, and was ordered to stay at home till she was better, 
for Aunt March did n't like to hear people read with colds in 
their heads. Jo liked this, and after an energetic rummage from 
garret to cellar, subsided on the sofa to nurse her cold with 
arsenicum and books. Amy found that housework and art did 
not go well together, and returned to her mud pies. Meg went 
daily to her pupils, and sewed, or thought she did, at home, 
but much time was spent in writing long letters to her mother, 
or reading the Washington despatches over and over. Beth 
kept on, with only slight relapses into idleness or grieving. 

All the little duties were faithfully done each day, and many 



186 LITTLE WOMEN 

of i?er sisters' also, for they were forgetful, and the house 
seemed like a clock whose pendulum was gone a- visiting. When 
her heart got heavy with longings for mother or fears for 
father, she went away into a certain closet, hid her face in the 
folds of a certain dear old gown, and made her little moan 
and prayed her little prayer quietly by herself. Nobody knew 
what cheered her up after a sober fit, but every one felt how 
sweet and helpful Beth was, and fell into a way of going to 
her for comfort or advice in their small affairs. 

All were unconscious that this experience was a test of char- 
acter; and, when the first excitement was over, felt that they 
had done well, and deserved praise. So they did; but their 
mistake was in ceasing to do well, and they learned this lesson 
through much anxiety and regret. 

" Meg, I wish you 'd go and see the Hummels ; you know 
mother told us not to forget them," said Beth, ten days after 
Mrs. March's departure. 

" I 'm too tired to go this afternoon," replied Meg, rocking 
comfortably as she sewed. 

"Can't you, Jo?" asked Beth. 

" Too stormy for me with my cold." 

" I thought it was almost well." 

" It ' well enough for me to go out with Laurie, but not well 
enough to go to the Hummels'," said Jo, laughing, but looking 
a little ashamed of her inconsistency. 

" Why don't you go yourself ? " asked Meg. 

" I have been every day, but the baby is sick, and I don't 
know what to do for it. Mrs. Hummel goes away to work ; 
and Lottchen takes care of it; but it gets sicker and sicker, 
and I think you or Hannah ought to go." 

Beth spoke earnestly, and Meg promised she would go to- 
morrow. 

" Ask Hannah for some nice little mess, and take it round. 
Beth ; the air will do you good," said Jo, adding apologetically, 
" I 'd go, but I want to finish my writing/' 



LITTLE WOMEN 187 

te My head aches and I 'm tired, so I thought Hiaybe some 
of you would go," said Beth. 

" Amy will be in presently, and she will run down for us," 
suggested Meg. 

" Well, I '11 rest a little and wait for her." 

So Beth lay down on the sofa, the others returned to their 
work, and the Hummels were forgotten. An hour passed: 
Amy did not come; Meg went to her room to try on a new 
dress; Jo was absorbed in her story, and Hannah was sound 
asleep before the kitchen fire, when Beth quietly put on her 
hood, filled her basket with odds and ends for the poor children, 
and went out into the chilly air, with a heavy head, and a grieved 
look in her patient eyes. It was late when she came back, and 
no one saw her creep upstairs and shut herself into her mother's 
room. Half an hour after Jo went to " mother's closet " for 
something, and there found Beth sitting on the medicine chest, 
looking very grave, with red eyes, and a camphor-bottle in her 
hand. 

"Christopher Columbus! What's the matter?" cried Jo, 
as Beth put out her hand as if to warn her off, and asked 
quickly, 

" You 've had the scarlet fever, have n't you ? " 

" Years ago, when Meg did. Why ? " 

" Then I '11 tell you. Oh, Jo, the baby 's dead ! " 

"What baby?" 

" Mrs. Hummel's ; it died in my lap before she got home," 
cried Beth, with a sob. 

" My poor dear, how dreadful for you ! I ought to have 
gone," said Jo, taking her sister in her arms as she sat down in 
her mother's big chair, with a remorseful face. 

" It was n't dreadful, Jo, only so sad ! I saw in a minute that 
it was sicker, but Lottchen said her mother had gone for a 
doctor, so I took baby and let Lotty rest. It seemed asleep, but 
all of a sudden it gave a little cry, and trembled, and then lay 
very still. I tried to warm its feet, and Lotty gave it some, milk, 
but it did n't stir, and I knew it was dead." 



i88 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Don't cry, dear ! What did you do ? " 

" I just sat and held it softly till Mrs. Hummel came with 
the doctor. He said it was dead, and looked at Heinrich and 
Minna, who have got sore throats. ' Scarlet fever, ma'am. 
Ought to have called me before/ he said crossly. Mrs. Hummel 
told him she was poor, and had tried to cure baby herself, but 
now it was too late, and she could only ask him to help the 
others, and trust to charity for his pay. He smiled then, and 
was kinder; but it was very sad, and I cried with them till he 
turned round, all of a sudden, and told me to go home and take 
belladonna right away, or I 'd have the fever." 

" No, you won't ! " cried Jo, hugging her close, with a 
frightened look. " O Beth, if you should be sick I never could 
forgive myself ! What shall we do ? " 

" Don't be frightened, I guess I sha'n't have it badly. I 
looked in mother's book, and saw that it begins with headache, 
sore throat, and queer feelings like mine, so I did take some 
belladonna, and I feel better," said Beth, laying her cold hands 
on her hot forehead, and trying to look well. 

"If mother was only at home ! " exclaimed Jo, seizing the 
book, and feeling that Washington was an immense way off. 
She read a page, looked at Beth, felt her head, peeped into her 
throat, and then said gravely, "You've been over the baby 
every day for more than a week, and among the others who 
are going to have it ; so I 'm afraid you are going to have it, 
Beth. I '11 call Hannah, she knows all about sickness." 

" Don't let Amy come ; she never had it, and I should hate to 
give it to her. Can't you and Meg have it over again ? " asked 
Beth, anxiously. 

" I guess not ; don't care if I do ; serves me right, selfish pig, 
to let you go and stay writing rubbish myself ! " muttered Jo, 
as she went to consult Hannah. 

The good soul was wide awake in a minute, and took the 
lead at once, assuring Jo that there was no need to worry ; every 
had scarlet fever, and, if rightly treated, nobody died, alt 



LITTLE WOMEN 189 

of which Jo believed, and felt much relieved as they went up 
to call Meg. 

" Now I '11 tell you what we'll do," said Hannah, when she 
had examined and questioned Beth ; " we will have Dr. Bangs, 
just to take a look at you dear, and see that we start right; 
then we'll send Amy off to Aunt March's for a spell, to keep 
her out of harm's way, and one of you girls can stay at home 
and amuse Beth for a day or two." 

" I shall stay, of course ; I 'm oldest," began Meg, looking 
anxious and self-reproachful. 

" / shall, because it 's my fault she is sick ; I told mother I 'd 
do the errands, and I have n't," said Jo decidedly. 

" Which will you have, Beth ? there aint no need of but one," 
said Hannah. 

" Jo, please ; " and Beth leaned her head against her sister, 
with a contented look, which effectually settled that point. 

" I '11 go and tell Amy," said Meg, feeling a little hurt yet 
rather relieved, on the whole, for she did not like nursing, 
and Jo did. 

Amy rebelled outright, and passionately declared that she 
had rather have the fever than go to Aunt March. Meg rea- 
soned, pleaded, and commanded: all in vain. Amy protested 
that she would not go; and Meg left her in despair, to ask 
Hannah what should be done. Before she came back, Laurie 
walked into the parlor to find Amy sobbing, with her head in 
the sofa-cushions. She told her story, expecting to be consoled : 
but Laurie only put his hands in his pockets and walked about 
the room, whistling softly, as he knit his brows in deep thought. 
Presently he sat down beside her, and said, in his most wheedle- 
some tone, " Now be a sensible little woman, and do as they 
say. No, don't cry, but hear what a jolly plan I 've got. You 
go to Aunt March's, and I '11 come and take you out every day, 
driving or walking, and we '11 have capital times. Won't that 
be better than moping here ? " 

" I don't wish to be sent off as if I was in the way," began 
Amy, in an injured voice. 



190 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Bless your heart, child, it 's to keep 3 ou well. You don't 
want to be sick, do you ? " 

" No, I 'm sure I don't ; but I dare say I shall be, for I *ve 
been with Beth all the time/' 

" That 's the very reason you ought to go away at once, so 
that you may escape it. Change of air and care will keep you 
well, I dare say; or, if it does not entirely, you will have the 
fever more lightly. I advise you to be off as soon as you can, 
for scarlet fever is no joke, miss." 

" But it 's dull at Aunt March's, and she is so cross/' said 
Amy, looking rather frightened. 

" It won't be dull with me popping in every day to tell you 
how Beth is, and take you out gallivanting. The old lady likes 
me, and I '11 be as sweet as possible to her, so she won't peck at 
us, whatever we do." 

" Will you take me out in the trotting wagon with Puck ? " 

" On my honor as a gentleman." 

" And come every single day? " 

" See if I don't." 

"And bring me back the minute Beth is well?" 

" The identical minute." 

" And go to the theatre, truly? " 

" A dozen theatres, if we may." 

" Well I guess I will," said Amy slowly. 

" Good girl ! Call Meg, and tell her you '11 give in," said 
Laurie, with an approving pat, which annoyed Amy more than 
the " giving in." 

Meg and Jo came running down to behold the miracle which 
had been wrought; and Amy, feeling very precious and self- 
sacrificing, promised to go, if the doctor said Beth was going 
to be ill. 

" How is the little dear ? " asked Laurie ; for Beth was his 
especial pet, and he felt more anxious about her than he liked 
to show. 

" She ie lying down on mother's bed, and feels better. The 



LITTLE WOMEN" 191 

baby's death troubled her, but I dare say she has only got cold. 
Hannah says she thinks so; but she looks worried, and that 
makes me fidgety," answered Meg. 

" What a trying world it is ! " said Jo, rumpling up her hair 
in a fretful sort of way. " No sooner do we get out of one 
trouble than down comes another. There does n't seem to be 
anything to hold on to when mother's gone ; so I 'm all at sea." 

" Well, don't make a porcupine of yourself, it is n't becom- 
ing. Settle your wig, Jo, and tell me if I shall telegraph to 
your mother, or do anything ? " asked Laurie, who never had 
been reconciled to the loss of his friend's one beauty. 

" That is what troubles me," said_ Meg. " I think we ought 
to tell her if Beth is really ill, but Hannah says we mustn't, 
for mother can't leave father, and it will only make them 
anxious. Beth won't be sick long, and Hannah knows just what 
to do, and mother said we were to mind her, so I suppose we 
must, but it doesn't seem quite right to me." 

" Hum, well, I can't say ; suppose you ask grandfather after 
the doctor has been." 

" We will. Jo, go and get Dr. Bangs at once," commanded 
Meg; "we can't decide anything till he has been." 

" Stay where you are, Jo ; I 'm errand-boy to this establish- 
ment," said Laurie, taking up his cap. 

" I 'm afraid you are busy," began Meg. 

" No, I 've done my lessons for the day." 

" Do you study in vacation time ? " asked Jo. 

" I follow the good example my neighbors set me, " was 
Laurie's answer, as he swung himself out of the room. 

" I have great hopes of my boy," observed Jo, watching him 
fly over the fence with an approving smile. 

"He does very well for a boy," was Meg's somewhat 
ungracious answer, for the subject did not interest her. 

Dr. Bangs came, said Beth had symptoms of the fever, but 
thought she would have it lightly, though he looked sober over 
the Hummel story. Amy was ordered off at once, and provided 



192 LITTLE WOMEN 

with something to ward off danger, she departed in great state, 
with Jo and Laurie as escort. 

Aunt March received them with her usual hospitality. 

" What do you want now? " she asked, looking sharply over 
her spectacles, while the parrot, sitting on the back of her chair, 
called out, 

" Go away. No boys allowed here." 

Laurie retired to the window, and Jo told her story. 

" No more than I expected, if you are allowed to go poking 
about among poor folks. Amy can stay and make herself useful 
if she is n't sick, which I 've no doubt she will be, looks like 
it now. Don't cry, child, it worries me to hear people sniff." 

Amy was on the point of crying, but Laurie slyly pulled the 
parrot's tail, which caused Polly to utter an astonished croak, 
and call out, 

" Bless my boots ! " in such a funny way, that she laughed 
instead. 

" What do you hear from your mother ? " asked the old lady 
gruffly. 

" Father is much better," replied Jo, trying to keep sober. 

" Oh, is he ? Well, that won't last long, I fancy ; March never 
had any stamina," was the cheerful reply. 

" Ha, ha ! never say die, take a pinch of snuff, good by, good 
by ! " squalled Polly, dancing on her perch, and clawing at the 
old lady's cap as Laurie tweaked him in the rear. 

" Hold your tongue, you disrespectful old bird ! and, Jo, you 'd 
better go at once ; it is n't proper to be gadding about so late 
with a rattle-pated boy like 

" Hold your tongue, you disrespectful old bird ! " cried Polly, 
tumbling off the chair with a bounce, and running to peck the 
" rattle-pated " boy, who was shaking with laughter at the last 
speech. 

" I don't think I can bear it, but I '11 try," thought Amy, as 
she was left alone with Aunt March. 

" Get along, you fright ! " screamed Polly ; and at that rude 
speech Amy could not restrain a sniff. 



LITTLE WOMEN 193 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

DARK DAYS. 

BETH did have the fever, and was much sicker than any one 
but Hannah and the doctor suspected. The girls knew nothing 
about illness, and Mr. Laurence was not allowed to see her, so 
Hannah had everything all her own way, and busy Dr. Bangs 
did his best, but left a good deal to the excellent nurse. Meg 
stayed at home, lest she should infect the Kings, and kept house, 
feeling very anxious and a little guilty when she wrote letters 
in which no mention was made of Beth's illness. She could 
not think it right to deceive her mother, but she had been bidden 
to mind Hannah, and Hannah would n't hear of " Mrs. March 
bein' told, and worried just for sech a trifle." Jo devoted her- 
self to Beth day and night ; not a hard task, for Beth was very 
patient, and bore her pain uncomplainingly as long as she could 
control herself. But there came a time when during the fever 
fits she began to talk in a hoarse, broken voice, to play on the 
coverlet, as if on her beloved little piano, and try to sing with a 
throat so swollen that there was no music left ; a time when she 
did not know the familiar faces round her, but addressed them 
by wrong names, and called imploringly for her mother. Then 
Jo grew frightened, Meg begged to be allowed to write the 
truth, and even Hannah said she " would think of it, though 
there was no danger yet" A letter from Washington added to 
their trouble, for Mr. March had had a relapse, and could not 
think of coming home for a long while. 

How dark the days seemed now, how sad and lonely the 
house, and how heavy were the hearts of the sisters as they 
worked and waited, while the shadow of death hovered over 
the once happy home ! Then it was that Margaret, sitting alone 
with tears dropping often on her work, felt how rich she had 
been in things more precious than any luxuries money could 



194 LITTLE WOMEN 

buy, in love, protection, peace, and health, the real blessings 
of life. Then it was that Jo, living in the darkened room, with 
that suffering little sister always before her eyes, and that 
pathetic voice sounding in her ears, learned to see the beauty 
and the sweetness of Beth's nature, to feel how deep and tender 
a place she filled in all hearts, and to acknowledge the worth of 
Beth's unselfish ambition to live for others, and make home 
happy by the exercise of those simple virtues which all may 
possess, and which all should love and value more than talent, 
wealth, or beauty. And Amy, in her exile, longed eagerly to be 
at home, that she might work for Beth, feeling now that no 
service would be hard or irksome, and remembering, with regret- 
ful grief, how many neglected tasks those willing hands had 
done for her. Laurie haunted the house like a restless ghost, 
and Mr. Laurence locked the grand piano, because he could 
not bear to be reminded of the young neighbor who used to 
make the twilight pleasant for him. Every one missed Beth. 
The milkman, baker, grocer, and butcher inquired how she did : 
poor Mrs. Hummel came to beg pardon for her thoughtlessness, 
and to get a shroud for Minna ; the neighbors sent all sorts of 
comforts ?,nd good wishes, and even those who knew her best 
were surprised to find how many friends shy little Beth had 
made. 

Meanwhile she lay on her bed with old Joanna at her side, 
for even in her wanderings she did not forget her forlorn 
protege. She longed for her cats, but would not have them 
brought, lest they should get sick ; and, in her quiet hours, she 
was full of anxiety about Jo. She sent loving messages to Amy, 
bade them tell her mother that she would write soon; and often 
begged for pencil and paper to try to say a word, that father 
might not think she had neglected him. But soon even these 
intervals of consciousness ended, and she lay hour after hour, 
tossing to and fro, with incoherent words on her lips, or sank 
into a heavy sleep which brought her no refreshment. Dr< 
Bangs came twice a day, Hannah sat up at night, Meg kept a 



LITTLE WOMEN 195 

telegram in her desk all ready to send off at any minute, and Jo 
never stirred from Beth's side. 

The first of December was a wintry day indeed to them, for 
a bitter wind blew, snow fell fast, and the year seemed getting 
ready for its death. When Dr. Bangs came that morning, he 
looked long at Beth, held the hot hand in both his own a minute, 
u,nd laid it gently down, saying in a low tone, to Hannah, 

" If Mrs. March can leave her husband, she 'd better be sent 
for." 

Hannah nodded without speaking, for her lips twitched 
nervously; Meg dropped down into a chair as the strength 
seemed to go out of her limbs at the sound of those words ; and 
Jo, after standing with a pale face for a minute, ran to the par- 
lor, snatched up the telegram, and, throwing on her things, 
rushed out into the storm. She was soon back, and, while 
noiselessly taking off her cloak, Laurie came in with a letter, 
saying that Mr. March was mending again. Jo read it thank- 
fully, but the heavy weight did not seem lifted off her heart, and 
her face was so full of misery that Laurie asked quickly, 

"What is it? is Beth worse?" 

" I 've sent for mother," said Jo, tugging at her rubber boots 
with a tragical expression. 

" Good for you, Jo ! Did you do it on your own responsi- 
bility ? " asked Laurie, as he seated her in the hall chair, and 
took off the rebellious boots, seeing how her hands shook. 

" No, the doctor told us to." 

" O Jo, it 's not so bad as that? " cried Laurie, with a startled 
face. 

" Yes, it is ; she does n't know us, she does n't even talk about 
the flocks of green doves, as she calls the vine-leaves on the 
wall ; she does n't look like my Beth, and there 's nobody to help 
us bear it ; mother and father both gone, and God seems so far 
away I can't find Him." 

As the tears streamed fast down poor Jo's cheeks, she 
stretched out her hand in a helpless sort of way, as if groping 



IQ6 LITTLE WOMEN 

in the dark, and Laurie took it in his, whispering, as well as he 
could, with a lump in his throat, 

" I 'm here. Hold on to me, Jo, dear ! " 

She could not speak, but she did " hold on," and the warm 
grasp of the friendly human hand comforted her sore heart, 
and seemed to lead her nearer to the Divine arm which alone 
could uphold her in her trouble. Laurie longed to say something 
tender and comfortable, but no fitting words came to him, so 
he stood silent, gently stroking her bent head as her mother used 
to do. It was the best thing he could have done; far more 
soothing than the most eloquent words, for Jo felt the unspoken 
sympathy, and, in the silence, learned the sweet solace which 
affection administers to sorrow. Soon she dried the tears which 
had relieved her, and looked up with a grateful face. 

" Thank you, Teddy, I 'm better now ; I don't feel so forlorn, 
and will try to bear it if it comes." 

"Keep hoping for the best; that will help you, Jo. Soon 
your mother will be here, and then everything will be right." 

" I 'm so glad father is better ; now she won't feel so bad 
about leaving him. Oh, me ! it does seem as if all the troubles 
came in a heap, and I got the heaviest part on my shoulders," 
sighed Jo, spreading her wet handkerchief over her knees to 
dry. 

" Does n't Meg pull fair ? '* asked Laurie, looking indignant. 

" Oh, yes ; she tries to, but she can't love Bethy as I do ; and 
she won't miss her as I shall. Beth is my conscience, and I 
can't give her up. I can't ! I can't ! " 

Down went Jo's face into the wet handkerchief, and she 
cried despairingly; for she had kept up bravely till now, and 
never shed a tear. Laurie drew his hand across his eyes, but 
could not speak till he had subdued the choky feeling in his 
throat and steadied his lips. It might be unmanly, but he 
could n't help it, and I am glad of it. Presently, as Jo's sobs 
quieted, he said hopefully, " I don't think she will die ; she 's 
sc good, and we all love her so much, I don't believe God will 
take her away yet." 



LITTLE WOMEN 197 

" The good and dear people always do die," groaned Jo, but 
she stopped crying, for her friend's words cheered her up, in 
spite of her own doubts and fears. 

" Poor girl, you 're worn out. It is n't like you to be forlorn. 
Stop a bit ; I '11 hearten you up in a jiffy." 

Laurie went off two stairs at a time, and Jo laid her wearied 
head down on Beth's little brown hood, which no one had 
thought of moving from the table where she left it. It must 
have possessed some magic, for the submissive spirit of its 
gentle owner seemed to enter into Jo; and, when Laurie came 
running down with a glass of wine, she took it with a smile, and 
said bravely, " I drink Health to my Beth ! You are a good 
doctor, Teddy, and such a comfortable friend ; how can I ever 
pay you ? " she added, as the wine refreshed her body, as the 
kind words had done her troubled mind. 

" I '11 send in my bill, by and by ; and to-night I '11 give you 
something that will warm the cockles of your heart better than 
quarts of wine," said Laurie, beaming at her with a face of 
suppressed satisfaction at something. 

" What is it ? " cried Jo, forgetting her woes for a minute, in 
her wonder. 

"I telegraphed to your mother yesterday, and Brooke 
answered she 'd come at once, and she '11 be here to-night, and 
everything will be all right. Are n't you glad I did it ? " 

Laurie spoke very fast, and turned red and excited all in a 
minute, for he had kept his plot a secret, for fear of disappoint- 
ing the girls or harming Beth. Jo grew quite white, flew out of 
her chair, and the moment he stopped speaking she electrified 
him by throwing her arms round his neck, and crying out, with 
a joyful cry. " O Laurie ! O mother ! I am so glad ! " She did 
not weep again, but laughed hysterically, and trembled and 
clung to her friend as if she was a little bewildered by the sud- 
den news. 

Laurie, though decidedly amazed, behaved with great presence 
of mind; he patted her back soothingly, and, finding that she 
was recovering, followed it up by a bashful kiss or two, which 



198 LITTLE WOMEN 

brought Jo round at once. Holding on to the banisters, she put 
him gently away, saying breathlessly, " Oh, don't ! I did n't 
mean to; it was dreadful of me; but you were such a dear to 
go and do it in spite of Hannah that I could n't help flying at 
you. Tell me all about it, and don't give me wine again; it 
makes me act so." 

" I don't mind," laughed Laurie, as he settled his tie. " Why, 
you see I got fidgety, and so did grandpa. We thought Hannah 
was overdoing the authority business, and your mother ought 
to know. She 'd never forgive us if Beth well, if anything 
happened, you know. So I got grandpa to say it was high time 
we did something, and off I pelted to the office yesterday, for 
the doctor looked sober, and Hannah jnost took my head oft 
when I proposed a telegram. I never can bear fo be ' lorded 
over ; ' so that settled my mind, and I did it. Your mother will 
come, I know, and the late train is in at two, A.M. I shall go 
for her ; and you 've only got to bottle up your rapture, and 
keep Beth quiet, till that blessed lady gets here." 

" Laurie, you 're an angel ! How shall I ever thank you ? " 

" Fly at me again ; I rather like it," said Laurie, looking 
mischievous, a thing he had not done for a fortnight. 

" No, thank you. I '11 do it by proxy, when your grandpa 
comes. Don't tease, but go home and rest, for you '11 be up half 
the night. Bless you, Teddy, bless you ! " 

Jo had backed into a corner ; and, as she finished her speech, 
she vanished precipitately into the kitchen, where she sat down 
upon a dresser, and told the assembled cats that she was " happy, 
oh, so happy ! " while Laurie departed, feeling that he had made 
rather a neat thing of it. 

"That's the inter feringest chap I ever see; but I forgive 
him, and do hope Mrs, March is coming on right away," said 
gannah, with an air of relief, when Jo told the good news. 

Meg had a quiet rapture, and then brooded over the letter, 
while Jo set the sick-room in order, and Hannah " knocked up 
a couple of pies in case of company unexpected." A breath of 
fresh air seemed to blow through the house, anci something 



Holding on to the banisters, she put him gently away. 
Page 198. 



LITTLE WOMEN 199 

better than sunshine brightened the quiet rooms. Everything 
appeared to feel the hopeful change ; Beth's bird began to chirp 
again, and a half-blown rose was discovered on Amy's bush in 
the window ; the fires seemed to burn with unusual cheeriness ; 
and every time the girls met, their pale faces broke into smiles 
as they hugged one another, whispering encouragingly, 
" Mother 's coming, dear ! mother 's coming ! " Every one re- 
joiced but Beth ; she lay in that heavy stupor, alike unconscious 
of hope and joy, doubt and danger. It was a piteous sight, 
the once rosy face so changed and vacant, the once busy hands 
so weak and wasted, the once smiling lips quite dumb, and the 
once pretty, well-kept hair scattered rough and tangled on the 
pillow. All day she lay so, only rousing now and then to mut- 
ter, " Water ! " with lips so parched they could hardly shape 
the word ; all day Jo and Meg hovered over her, watching, wait- 
ing, hoping, and trusting in God and mother; and all day the 
snow fell, the bitter wind raged, and the hours dragged slowly 
by. But night came at last; and every time the clock struck, 
the sisters, still sitting on either side the bed, looked at each 
other with brightening eyes, for each hour brought help nearer. 
The doctor had been in to say that some change, for better or 
worse, would probably take place about midnight at which time 
he would return. 

Hannah, quite worn out, lay down on the sofa at the bed's 
foot, and fell fast asleep ; Mr. Laurence marched to and fro in 
the parlor, feeling that he would rather face a rebel battery than 
Mrs. March's anxious countenance as she entered; Laurie lay 
on the rug, pretending to rest, but staring into the fire with the 
thoughtful look which made his black eyes beautifully soft and 
clear. 

The girls never forgot that night, for no sleep came to them 
as they kept their watch, with that dreadful sense of power- 
Jessness which comes to us in hours like those. 

"If God spares Beth I never will complain again," whispered 
Meg earnestly. 



200 LITTLE WOMEN 

"If God spares Beth I '11 try to love and serve Him all my 
life," answered Jo, with equal fervor. 

" I wish I had no heart, it aches so," sighed Meg, after a 
pause. 

" If life is often as hard as this, I don't see how we ever shall 
get through it," added her sister despondently. 

Here the clock struck twelve, and both forgot themselves in 
watching Beth, for they fancied a change passed over her wan 
face. The house was still as death, and nothing but the wailing 
of the wind broke the deep hush. Weary Hannah slept on, and 
no one but the sisters saw the pale shadow which seemed to fall 
upon the little bed. An hour went by, and nothing happened 
except Laurie's quiet departure for the station. Another hour, 
still no one came; and anxious fears of delay in the storm, 
or accidents by the way, or, worst of all, a great grief at Wash- 
ington, haunted the poor girls. 

It was past two, when Jo, who stood at the window thinking 
how dreary the world looked in its winding-sheet of snow, 
heard a movement by the bed, and, turning quickly, saw Meg 
kneeling before their mother's easy-chair, with her face hidden. 
A dreadful fear passed coldly over Jo, as she thought, " Beth 
is dead, and Meg is afraid to tell me." 

She was back at her post in an instant, and to her excited 
eyes a great change seemed to have taken place. The fever 
flush and the look of pain were gone, and the beloved little face 
looked so pale and peaceful in its utter repose, that Jo felt no 
desire to weep or to lament. Leaning low over this dearest of 
her sisters, she kissed the damp forehead with her heart on her 
lips, and softly whispered, " Good-by, my Beth ; good-by ! " 

As if waked by the stir, Hannah started out of her sleep, 
hurried to the bed, looked at Beth, felt her hands, listened at 
her lips, and then, throwing her apron over her head, sat down 
fo rock to and fro, exclaiming, under her breath, " The fever 's 
turned ; she 's sleepin' nat'ral ; her skin's damp, and she breathes 
easy. Praise be given ! Oh, my goodness me ! " 

Before the girls could believe the happy truth, the doctor 



LITTLE WOMEN 201 

came to confirm it. He was a homely man, but they thought 
his face quite heavenly when he smiled, and said, with a fatherly 
look at them, " Yes, my dears, I think the little girl will pull 
through this time. Keep the house quiet; let her sleep, and 
when she wakes, give her " 

What they were to give, neither heard; for both crept into 
the dark hall, and sitting on the stairs, held each other close, 
rejoicing with hearts too full for words. When they went back 
to be kissed and cuddled by faithful Hannah, they found Beth 
tying, as she used to do, with her cheek pillowed on her hand, 
the dreadful pallor gone, and breathing quietly, as if just fallen 
asleep. 

"If mother would only come now ! " said Jo, as the winter 
night began to wane. 

" See," said Meg, coming up with a white, half-opened rose, 
" I thought this would hardly be ready to lay in Beth's hand 
to-morrow if she went away from us. But it has blossomed 
in the night, and now I mean to put it in my vase here, so that 
when the darling wakes, the first thing she sees will be the little 
rose, and mother's face." 

Never had the sun risen so beautifully, and never had the 
world seemed so lovely, as it did to the heavy eyes of Meg and 
Jo, as they looked out in the early morning, when their long, 
sad vigil was done. 

" It looks like a fairy world," said Meg, smiling to herself, as 
she stood behind the curtain, watching the dazzling sight. 

" Hark ! " cried Jo, starting to her feet. 

Yes, there was a sound of bells at the door below, a cry from 
Hannah, and then Laurie's voice saying, in a joyful whisper, 
K Girls, she 's come ! she 's come ! " 



202 LITTLE WOMEN 

CHAPTER XIX. 

AMY'S WILL. 

WHILE these things were happening at home, Amy was hav- 
ing hard times at Aunt March's. She felt her exile deeply, and, 
for the first time in her life, realized how much she was beloved 
and petted at home. Aunt March never petted any one; she 
did not approve of it; but she meant to be kind, for the well- 
behaved little girl pleased her very much, and Aunt March had 
a soft place in her old heart for her nephew's children, though 
she did n't think proper to confess it. She really did her best to 
make Amy happy, but, dear me, what mistakes she made ! Some 
old people keep young at heart in spite of wrinkles and gray 
hairs, can sympathize with children's little cares and joys, make 
them feel at home, and can hide wise lessons under pleasant 
plays, giving and receiving friendship in the sweetest way. But 
Aunt March had not this gift, and she worried Amy very much 
with her rules and orders, her prim ways, and long, prosy talks. 
Finding the child more docile and amiable than her sister, the 
old lady felt it her duty to try and counteract, as far as possible, 
the bad effects of home freedom and indulgence. So she took 
Amy in hand, and taught her as she herself had been taught 
sixty years ago, a process which carried dismay to Amy's 
soul, and made her feel like a fly in the web of a very strict 
spider. 

She had to wash the cups every morning, and polish up the 
old-fashioned spoons, the fat silver teapot, and the glasses, till 
they shone. Then she must dust the room, and what a trying 
job that was ! Not a speck escaped Aunt March's eye, and all 
the furniture had claw legs, and much carving, which was never 
dusted to suit. Then Polly must be fed, the lap-dog combed, 
and a dozen trips upstairs and down, to get things, or deliver 
orders, for the old lady was very lame, and seldom left her big 



LITTLE WOMEN 203 

chair. After these tiresome labors, she must do her lessons, 
which was a daily trial of every virtue she possessed. Then she 
was allowed one hour for exercise or play, and did n't she enjoy 
it? Laurie came every day, and wheedled Aunt March, till 
Amy was allowed to go out with him, when they walked and 
rode, and had capital times. After dinner, she had to read 
aloud, and sit still while the old lady slept, which she usually 
did for an hour, as she dropped off over the first page. Then 
patchwork or towels appeared, and Amy sewed with outward 
meekness and inward rebellion till dusk, when she was allowed 
to amuse herself as she liked till tea-time. The evenings were 
the worst of all, for Aunt March fell to telling long stories 
about her youth, which were so unutterably dull that Amy was 
always ready to go to bed, intending to cry over her hard fate, 
but usually going to sleep before she had squeezed out more 
than a tear or two. 

If it had not been for Laurie, and old Esther, the maid, she 
felt that she never could have got through that dreadful time. 
The parrot alone was enough to drive her distracted, for he 
soon felt that she did not admire him, and revenged himself by 
being as mischievous as possible. He pulled her hair whenever 
she came near him, upset his bread and milk to plague her when 
she had newly cleaned his cage, made Mop bark by pecking at 
him while Madam dozed ; called her names before company, and 
behaved in all respects like a reprehensible old bird. Then she 
could not endure the dog, a fat, cross beast, who snarled and 
yelped at her when she made his toilet, and who lav on his back, 
with all his legs in the air and a most idiotic expression of 
countenance when he wanted something to eat, which was about 
a dozen times a day. The cook was bad-tempered, the old 
coachman deaf, and Esther the only one who ever took any 
notice of the young lady. 

Esther was a Frenchwoman, who had lived with " Madame," 
as she called her mistress, for many years, and who rather 
tyrannized over the old lady, who could not get along without 
her. Her real name was Estelle, but Aunt March ordered her 



204 LITTLE WOMEN 

to change it, and she obeyed, on condition that she was never 
asked to change her religion. She took a fancy to Mademoiselle, 
and amused her very much, with odd stories of her life in 
France, when Amy sat with her while she got up Madame's 
laces. She also allowed her to roam about the great house, and 
examine the curious and pretty things stored away in the big 
wardrobes and the ancient chests ; for Aunt March hoarded like 
a magpie. Amy's chief delight was an Indian cabinet, full of 
queer drawers, little pigeon-holes, and secret places, in which 
were kept all sorts of ornaments, some precious, some merely 
curious, all more or less antique. To examine and arrange these 
things gave Amy great satisfaction, especially the jewel-cases, 
in which, on velvet cushions, reposed the ornaments which had 
adorned a belle forty years ago. There was the garnet set 
which Aunt March wore when she came out, the pearls her 
father gave her on her wedding-day, her lover's diamonds, the 
jet mourning rings and pins, the queer lockets, with portraits of 
dead friends, and weeping willows made of hair inside; the 
baby bracelets her one little daughter had worn ; Uncle March's 
big watch, with the red seal so many childish hands had played 
with, and in a box, all by itself, lay Aunt March's wedding- 
ring, too small now for her fat finger, but put carefully away, 
like the most precious jewel of them all. 

" Which would Mademoiselle choose if she had her will ? " 
asked Esther, who always sat near to watch over and lock up 
the valuables. 

" I like the diamonds best, but there is no necklace among 
them, and I 'm fond of necklaces, they are so becoming. I 
should choose this if I might," replied Amy, looking with great 
admiration at a string of gold and ebony beads, from which 
hung a heavy cross of the same. 

" I, too, covet that, but not as a necklace ; ah, no ! to me it is 
% rosary, and as such I should use it like a good Catholic," said 
Esther, eying the handsome thing wistfully. 

" Is it meant to use as you use the string of good-smelling 
wooden beads hanging over your glass ? " asked Amy. 



LITTLE WOMEN 205 

" Truly, yes, to pray with. It would be pleasing to the saints 
if one used so fine a rosary as this, instead of wearing it as a 
vain bijou." 

" You seem to take a great deal of comfort in your prayers, 
Esther, and always come down looking quiet and satisfied. I 
wish I could." 

"If Mademoiselle was a Catholic, she would find true com- 
fort ; but, as that is not to be, it would be well if you went apart 
each day, to meditate and pray, as did the good mistress whom 
I served before Madame. She had a little chapel, and in it 
found solacement for much trouble." 

" Would it be right for me to do so too ? " asked Amy, who, 
in her loneliness, felt the need of help of some sort, and found 
that she was apt to forget her little book, now that Beth was 
not there to remind her of it. 

" It would be excellent and charming ; and I shall gladly 
arrange the little dressing-room for you if you like it. Say 
nothing to Madame, but when she sleeps go you and sit alone 
a while to think good thoughts, and pray the dear God to pre- 
serve your sister." 

Esther was truly pious, and quite sincere in her advice ; for 
she had an affectionate heart, and felt much for the sisters in 
their anxiety. Amy liked the idea, and gave her leave to arrange 
the light closet next her room, hoping it would do her good. 

" I wish I knew where all these pretty things would go when 
Aunt March dies," she said, as she slowly replaced the shining 
rosary, and shut the jewel-cases one by one. 

" To you and your sisters. I know it ; Madame confides in 
me ; I witnessed her will, and it is to be so," whispered Esther, 
smiling. 

" How nice ! but I wish she J d let us have them now. Pro- 
cras-ti-nation is not agreeable," observed Amy, taking a last 
look at the diamonds. 

" It is too soon yet for the young ladies to wear these things. 
The first one who is affianced will have the pearls Madame 
has said it ; and I have a fancy that the little turquoise ring will 



206 LITTLE WOMEN 

be given to you when you go, for Madame approves your good 
behavior and charming manners." 

" Do you think so ? Oh, I '11 be a lamb, if I can only have 
that lovely ring ! It 's ever so much prettier than Kitty Bryant's. 
I do like Aunt March, after all ; " and Amy tried on the blue 
ring with a delighted face, and a firm resolve to earn it. 

From that day she was a model of obeidence, and the old lady 
complacently admired the success of her training. Esther fitted 
up the closet with a little table, placed a footstool before it, and 
over it a picture taken from one of the shut-up rooms. She 
thought it was of no great value, but, being appropriate, she 
borrowed it, well knowing that Madame would never know it, 
nor care if she did. It was, however, a very valuable copy of 
one of the famous pictures of the world, and Amy's beauty- 
loving eyes were never tired of looking up at the sweet face of 
the divine mother, while tender thoughts of her own were busy 
at her heart. On the table she laid her little Testament and 
hymn-book, kept a vase always full of the best flowers Laurie 
brought her, and came every day to " sit alone, thinking good 
thoughts, and praying the dear God to preserve her sister." 
Esther had given her a rosary of black beads, with a silver cross, 
but Amy hung it up and did not use it, feeling doubtful as to its 
fitness for Protestant prayers. 

/" The little girl was very sincere in all this, for, being left alone 
/ outside the safe home-nest, she felt the need of some kind hand 
to hold by so sorely, that she instinctively turned to the strong 
V-xand tender Friend, whose fatherly love most closely surrounds 
his little children. She missed her mother's help to understand 
and rule herself, but having been taught where to look, she did 
her best to find the way, and walk in it confidingly. But Amy 
was a young pilgrim, and just now her burden seemed very 
heavy. She tried to forget herself, to keep cheerful, and be 
satisfied with doing right, though no one saw or praised her for 
it. In her first effort at being very, very good, she decided to 
make her will, as Aunt March had done ; so that if she did fall 
ill and die, her possessions might be justly and generously 



LITTLE WOMEN 207 

divided. It cost her a pang even to think of giving up the little 
treasures which in her eyes were as precious as the old lady's 
jewels. 

During one of her play-hours she wrote out the important 
document as well as she could, with some help from Esther as 
to certain legal terms, and, when the good-natured French- 
woman had signed her name, Amy felt relieved, and laid it by 
to show Laurie, whom she wanted as a second witness. As it 
was a rainy day, she went upstairs to amuse herself in one of 
the large chambers, and took Polly with her for company. In 
this room there was a wardrobe full of old-fashioned costumes, 
with which Esther allowed her to play, and it was her favorite 
amusement to array herself in the faded brocades, and parade 
up and down before the long mirror, making stately curtsies, 
and sweeping her train about, with a rustle which delighted her 
ears. So busy was she on this day that she did not hear Laurie's 
ring, nor see his face peeping in at her, as she gravely prome- 
naded to and fro, flirting her fan and tossing her head, on which 
she wore a great pink turban, contrasting oddly with her blue 
brocade dress and yellow quilted petticoat. She was obliged to 
walk carefully, for she had on high-heeled shoes, and, as Laurie 
told Jo afterward, it was a comical sight to see her mince along 
in her gay suit, with Polly sidling and bridling just behind her, 
imitating her as well as he could, and occasionally stopping to 
laugh or exclaim, " Ain't we fine ? Get along, you fright ! Hold 
your tongue ! Kiss me dear ! Ha ! ha ! " 

Having with difficulty restrained an explosion of merriment, 
lest it should offend her majesty, Laurie tapped, and was 
graciously received. 

" Sit down and rest while I put these things away ; then I 
want to consult you about a very serious matter," said Amy, 
when she had shown her splendor, and driven Polly into a 
corner, "That bird is the trial of my life," she continued, 
removing the pink mountain from her head, while Laurie seated 
himself astride of a chair. " Yesterday, when aunt was asleep, 
and I was trying to be as still as a mouse, Polly began to squall 



208 LITTLE WOMEN 

and flap about in his cage ; so I went to let him out, and found 
a big spider there. I poked it out, and it ran under the book- 
case ; Polly marched straight after it, stooped down and peeped 
under the bookcase, saying, in his funny way, with a cock of his 
eye, ' Come out and take a walk, my dear/ I could n't help 
laughing, which made Poll swear, and aunt woke up and scolded 
us both." 

"Did the spider accept the old fellow's invitation?" asked 
Laurie, yawning. 

" Yes ; out it came, and away ran Polly, frightened to death, 
and scrambled up on aunt's chair, calling out, * Catch her ! catch 
her ! catch her ! ' as I chased the spider." 

" That's a lie ! Oh lor ! " cried the parrot, pecking at Laurie's 
toes. 

" I 'd wring your neck if you were mine, you old torment," 
cried Laurie, shaking his fist at the bird, who put his head on 
one side, and gravely croaked, " Allyluyer ! bless your buttons, 
dear!" 

" Now I 'm ready," said Amy, shutting the wardrobe, and 
taking a paper out of her pocket. " I want you to read that, 
please, and tell me if it is legal and right. I felt that I ought to 
do it, for life is uncertain and I don't want any ill-feeling over 
my tomb." 

Laurie bit his lips, and turning a little from the pensive 
speaker, read the following document, with praiseworthy 
gravity, considering the spelling : 

" MY LAST WILL AND TESTIMENT. 

" I, Amy Curtis March, being in my sane mind, do give and 
bequeethe all my earthly property viz. to wit : namely 

" To my father, my best pictures, sketches, maps, and works 
of art, including frames. Also my $100, to do what he likes 
with. 

" To my mother, all my clothes, except the blue apron with 
pockets, also my likeness, and my medal, with much love. 

" To my dear sister Margaret, I give my turkquoise ring (if 
I get it), also my green box with the doves on it, also my piece 



LITTLE WOMEN 209 

of real lace for her neck, and my sketch of her as a memorial of 
Her ' little girl/ 

" To Jo I leave my breast-pin, the one mended with sealing 
wax, also my bronze inkstand she lost the cover and my 
most precious plaster rabbit, because I am sorry I burnt up her 
story. 

" To Beth (if she lives after me) I give my dolls and the little 
bureau, my fan, my linen collars and my new slippers if she 
can wear them being thin when she gets well. And I herewith 
also leave her my regret that I ever made fun of old Joanna. 

" To my friend and neighbor Theodore Laurence I bequeethe 
my paper marshay portfolio, my clay model of a horse though 
he did say it had n't any neck. Also in return for his great 
kindness in the hour of affliction any one of my artistic works 
he likes, Notre Dame is the best. 

" To our venerable benefactor Mr. Laurence I leave my 
purple box with a looking glass in the cover which will be nice 
for his pens and remind him of the departed girl who thanks 
him for his favors to her family, specially Beth. 

" I wish my favorite playmate Kitty Bryant to have the blue 
silk apron and my gold-bead ring with a kiss. 

" To Hannah I give the bandbox she wanted and all the 
patch work I leave hoping she ' will remember me, when it 
you see. ' 

" And now having disposed of my most valuable property I 
hope all will be satisfied and not blame the dead. I forgive 
every one, and trust we may all meet when the trump shall 
sound. Amen. 

" To this will and testiment I set my hand and seal on this 
2Oth day of Nov. Anni Domino 1861. 

" AMY CURTIS MARCH 

f ESTELLE VALNOR, 
' LAURENCE." 



The last name was written in pencil, and Amy explained that 
he was to rewrite it in ink, and seal it up for her properly. 



210 LITTLE WOMEN 

" What put it into your head ? Did any one tell you about 
Beth's giving away her things ? " asked Laurie soberly, as Amy 
laid a bit of red tape, with sealing-wax, a taper, and a stand- 
ish before him. 

She explained ; and then asked anxiously, " What about 
Beth?" 

" I 'm sorry I spoke ; but as I did, I '11 tell you. She felt so 
ill one day that she told Jo she wanted to give her piano to 
Meg, her cats to you, and the poor old doll to Jo, who would love 
it for her sake. She was sorry she had so little to give, and 
left locks of hair to the rest of us, and her best love to grandpa. 
She never thought of a will." 

Laurie was signing and sealing as he spoke, and did not look 
up till a great tear dropped on the paper. Amy's face was 
full of trouble ; but she only said, " Don't people put sort of 
postscrips to their wills, sometimes ? " 

" Yes ; ' codicils,' they call them." 

" Put one in mine then that I wish all my curls cut off, 
and given round to my friends. I forgot it ; but I want it done, 
though it will spoil my looks." 

Laurie added it, smiling at Amy's last and greatest sacrifice. 
Then he amused her for an hour, and was much interested in 
all her trials. But when he came to go, Amy held him back 
to whisper, with trembling lips, " Is there really any danger 
about Beth?" 

" I 'm afraid there is ; but we must hope for the best, so 
don't cry, dear ; " and Laurie put his arm about her with a 
brotherly gesture which was very comforting. 

When he had gone, she went to her little chapel, and, sitting 
in the twilight, prayed for Beth, with streaming tears and an 
aching heart, feeling that a million turquoise rings would not 
console her for the loss of her gentle little sister. 



. LITTLE WOMEN 211 

CHAPTER XX. 

CONFIDENTIAL. 

I DON'T think I have any words in which to tell the meeting 
<jf the mother and daughters ; such hours are beautiful to live, 
but very hard to describe, so I will leave it to the imagination 
of rny readers, merely saying that the house was full of genuine 
happiness, and that Meg's tender hope was realized; for when 
Beth woke from that long, healing sleep, the first objects on 
which her eyes fell were the little rose and mother's face. Too 
weak to wonder at anything, she only smiled, and nestled close 
into the loving arms about her, feeling that the hungry long- 
ing was satisfied at last. Then she slept again, and the girls 
waited upon their mother, for she would not unclasp the thin 
hand which clung to hers even in sleep. 

Hannah had " dished up " an astonishing breakfast for the 
traveller, finding it impossible to vent her excitement in any 
other way ; and Meg and Jo fed their mother like dutiful young 
storks, while they listened to her whispered account of father's 
state, Mr. Brooke's promise to stay and nurse him, the delays 
which the storm occasioned on the homeward journey, and the 
unspeakable comfort Laurie's hopeful face had given her when 
she arrived, worn out with fatigue, anxiety, and cold. 

What a strange, yet pleasant day that was ! so brilliant and 
gay without, for all the world seemed abroad to welcome the 
first snow; so quiet and reposeful within, for every one slept, 
spent with watching, and a Sabbath stillness reigned through 
the house, while nodding Hannah mounted guard at the door. 
With a blissful sense of burdens lifted off, Meg and Jo closed 
their weary eyes, and lay at rest, like storm-beaten boats, safe 
at anchor in a quiet harbor. Mrs. March would not leave 
Beth's side, but rested in the big chair, waking often to look 
Ut, touch, and brood over her child, like a miser over some 
recovered treasure. 



212 LITTLE WOMEN 

Laurie, meanwhile, posted off to comfort Amy, and told his 
story so well that Aunt March actually " sniffed " herself, and 
never once said, " I told you so." Amy came out so strong on 
this occasion that I think the good thoughts in the little chapel 
really began to bear fruit. She dried her tears quickly, calmly 
restrained her impatience to see her mother, and never even 
thought of the turquoise ring, when the old lady heartily agreed 
in Laurie's opinion, that she behaved " like a capital little 
woman." Even Polly seemed impressed, for he called her 
" good girl," blessed her buttons, and begged her to "come and 
take a walk, dear," in his most affable tone. She would very 
gladly have gone out to enjoy the bright wintry weather; but, 
discovering that Laurie was dropping with sleep in spite of 
manful efforts to conceal the fact, she persuaded him to rest on 
the sofa, while she wrote a note to her mother. She was a 
long time about it; and, when she returned, he was stretched out, 
with both arms under his head, sound asleep, while Aunt March 
had pulled down the curtains, and sat doing nothing in an un- 
usual fit of benignity. 

After a while, they began to think he was not going to wake 
till night, and I 'm not sure that he would, had he not been 
effectually roused by Amy's cry of joy at sight of her mother. 
There probably were a good many happy little girls in and about 
the city that day, but it is my private opinion that Amy was the 
happiest of all, when she sat in her mother's lap and told her 
trials, receiving consolation and compensation in the shape of 
approving smiles and fond caresses. They were alone together 
in the chapel, to which her mother did not object when its pun 
pose was explained to her. 

" On the contrary, I like it very much, dear," looking frorfl 
the dusty rosary to the well-worn little book, and the lovely 
picture with its garland of evergreen. " It is an excellent plan 
to have some place where we can go to be quiet, when things 
vex or grieve us. There are a good many hard times in this 
life of ours, but we can always bear them if we ask help in 
the right way. I think my little girl is learning this ? " 



LITTLE WOMEN 213 

" Yes, mother ; and when I go home I mean to have a corner 
in the big closet to put my books, and the copy of that picture 
which I Ve tried to make. The woman's face is not good, * - 
it 's too beautiful for me to draw, but the baby is done better, 
and I love it very much. I like to think He was a little child 
once, for then I don't seem so far away, and that helps me." 

As Amy pointed to the smiling Christ-child on his mother's 
knee, Mrs. March saw something on the lifted hand that made 
her smile. She said nothing, but Amy understood the look, and, 
after a minute's pause, she added gravely, 

" I wanted to speak to you about this, but I forgot it. Aunt 
gave me the ring to-day; she called me to her and kissed me, 
and put it on my finger, and said I was a credit to her, and 
she 'd like to keep me always. She gave that funny guard to 
keep the turquoise on, as it 's too big. I 'd like to wear them, 
mother ; can I ? " 

" They are very pretty, but I think you 're rather too young 
for such ornaments, Amy," said Mrs. March, looking at the 
plump little hand, with the band of sky-blue stones on the 
forefinger, and the quaint guard, formed of two tiny, golden 
hands clasped together. 

" I'll try not to be vain," said Amy. " I don't think I like 
it only because it 's so pretty ; but I want to wear it as the girl in 
the story wore her bracelet, to remind me of something." 

" Do you mean Aunt March ? " asked her mother, laughing. 

" No, to remind me not to be selfish." Amy looked so earnest 
and sincere about it, that her mother stopped laughing, and 
listened respectfully to the little plan. 

"I Ve thought a great deal lately about my ' bundle of 
naughties,' and being selfish is the largest one in it ; so I 'm 
going to try hard to cure it, if I can. Beth is n't selfish, and 
that 's the reason every one loves her and feels so bad at the 
thought of losing her. People would n't feel half so bad about 
me if I was sick, and I don't deserve to have them ! but I 'd 
like to be. loved and missed by a great many friends, so I 'm 
going to try and be like Beth all I can, I 'm apt to forget 



214 LITTLE WOMEN 

my resolutions; but if I had something always about me to 
remind me, I guess I should do better. May I try this way ? " 

C" Yes ; but I have more faith in the corner of the big closet. 
Wear your ring, dear, and do your best; I think you will 
prosper, for the sincere wish to be good is half the battle. 
Now I must go back to Beth. Keep up your heart, little daugh- 
ter, and we will soon have you home again." 

That evening, while Meg was writing to her father, to report 
the traveller's safe arrival, Jo slipped upstairs into Beth's room, 
and, rinding her mother in her usual place, stood a minute twist- 
ing her fingers in her hair, with a worried gesture and an un- 
decided look. 

"What is it, deary?" asked Mrs. March, holding out her 
hand, with a face which invited confidence. 

" I want to tell you something, mother." 

"About Meg?" 

" How quickly you guessed ! Yes, it 's about her, and though 
it 's a little thing it fidgets me." 

" Beth is asleep ; speak low, and tell me all about it. That 
Moffat hasn't been here, I hope?" asked Mrs. March rather 
sharply. 

" No, I should have shut the door in his face if he had," said 
Jo, settling herself on the floor at her mother's feet. " Last 
summer Meg left a pair of gloves over at the Laurences', and 
only one was returned. We forgot all about it, till Teddy told 
me that Mr. Brooke had it. He kept it in his waistcoat pocket, 
and once it fell out, and Teddy joked him about it, and Mr. 
Brooke owned that he liked Meg, but did n't dare say so, she 
was so young and he so poor. Now, is n't it a dreadful state 
of things?" 

" Do you think Meg cares for him ? " asked Mrs. March, with 
an anxious look. 

" Mercy me ! I don't know anything about love and such 
nonsense ! " cried Jo, with a funny mixture of interest and con- 
tempt. " In novels, the girls show it by starting and blushing, 
fainting away, growing thin, and acting like fools. Now Meg 



LITTLE WOMEN 215 

does not do anything of the sort : she eats and drinks and sleeps, 
like a sensible creature ; she looks straight in my face when I 
talk about that man, and only blushes a little bit when Teddy 
jokes about lovers. I forbid him to do it, but he does n't mind 
me as he ought." 

" Then you fancy that Meg is not interested in John ? " 

"Who? "cried Jo, staring. 

" Mr. Brooke. I call him ' John ' now ; we fell into the way 
of doing so at the hospital, and he likes it." 

" Oh, dear ! I know you '11 take his part : he 's been good to 
father, and you won't send him away, but let Meg marry him, 
if she wants to. Mean thing! to go petting papa and helping 
you, just to wheedle you into liking him ! " and Jo pulled her 
hair again with a wrathful tweak. 

" My dear don't get angry about it, and I will tell you how 
it happened. John went with me at Mr. Laurence's request, 
and was so devoted to poor father that we could n't help getting 
fond of him. He was perfectly open and honorable about Meg, 
for he told us he loved her, but would earn a comfortable home 
before he asked her to marry him. He only wanted our leave 
to love her and work for her, and the right to make her love 
him if he could. He is a truly excellent young man, and we 
could not refuse to listen to him ; but I will not consent to Meg's 
engaging herself so young." 

" Of course not ; it would be idiotic ! I knew there was mis- 
chief brewing ; I felt it ; and now it 's worse than I imagined. 
I just wish I could marry Meg myself, and keep her safe in the 
family." 

This odd arrangement made Mrs. March smile ; but she said 
gravely, " Jo, I confide in you, and don't wish you to say any- 
thing to Meg yet. When John comes back, and I see them to- 
gether, I can judge better of her feelings toward him." 

" She '11 see his in those handsome eyes that she talks about, 
and then it will be all up with her. She 's got such a soft heart, 
it will melt like butter in the sun if anyone looks sentimentally 
at her. She read the short reports he sent more than she did 



216 LITTLE WOMEN 

your letters and pinched me when I spoke of it, and likes brown 
eyes, and does n't think John an ugly name, and she '11 go and 
fall in love, and there 's an end of peace and fun, and cosey times 
together. I see it all ! they '11 go levering around the house, and 
we shall have to dodge ; Meg will be absorbed, and no good to me 
any more; Brooke will scratch up a fortune somehow, carry 
her off, and make a hole in the family; and I shall break my 
heart, and everything will be abominably uncomfortable. Oh, 
dear me ! why were n't we all boys, then there would n't be any 
bother." 

Jo leaned her chin on her knees, in a disconsolate attitude, 
and shook her fist at the reprehensible John. Mrs. March 
sighed, and Jo looked up with an air of relief. 

" You don't like it, mother ? I 'm glad of it. Let 's send him 
about his business, and not tell Meg a word of it, but all be 
happy together as we always have been." 

" I did wrong to sigh, Jo. It is natural and right you should 
all go to homes of your own, in time; but I do want to keep 
my girls as long as I can; and I am sorry that this happened 
so soon, for Meg is only seventeen, and it will be some years 
before John can make a home for her. Your father and I 
have agreed that she shall not bind herself in any way, nor be 
married, before twenty. If she and John love one another, they 
can wait, and test the love by doing so. She is conscientious, 
and I have no fear of her treating him unkindly. My pretty, 
tender-hearted girl! I hope things will go happily with her." 

" Had n't you rather have her marry a rich man ? " asked 
Jo, as her mother's voice faltered a little over the last words. 

" Money is a good and useful thing, Jo ; and I hope my girls 

will never feel the need of it too bitterly, nor be tempted by too 

much, I should like to know that John was firmly established 

in some good business, which gave him an income large enough 

to keep free from debt and make Meg comfortable. I 'm not 

S ambitious for a splendid fortune, a fashionable position, or a 

/ great name for my girls. If rank and money come with love 

and Virtue, also, I should accept them gratefully, and enjoy your 



LITTLE WOMEN 

good fortune; but I know, by experience, how much genuine 
happiness can be had in a plain little house, where the daily 
bread is earned, and some privations give sweetness to the few 
pleasures. I am content to see Meg begin humbly, for, if I 
am not mistaken, she will be rich in the possession of a good 
man's heart, and that is better than a fortune." 

" I understand, mother, and quite agree ; but I 'm disappointed 
about Meg, for I 'd planned to have her marry Teddy by and 
by, and sit in the lap of luxury all her days. Wouldn 't it be 
nice ? " asked Jo, looking up, with a brighter face. 

" He is younger than she, you know," began Mrs. March ; but 
Jo broke in, 

" Only a little ; he 's old for his age, and tall ; and can be 
quite grown-up in his manners if he likes. Then he 's rich and 
generous and good, and loves us all ; and / say it 's a pity my 
plan is spoilt." 

" I 'm afraid Laurie is hardly grown up enough for Meg, and 
altogether too much of a weathercock, just now, for any one 
to depend on. Don't make plans, Jo; but let time and their 
own hearts mate your friends. We can't meddle safely in such 
matters, and had better not get ' romantic rubbish/ as you call 
it, into our heads, lest it spoil our friendship." 

" Well, I won't ; but I hate to see things going all criss-cross 
and getting snarled up, when a pull here and a snip there would 
straighten it out. I wish wearing flat-irons on our heads would 
keep us from growing up. But buds will be roses, and kittens, 
cats, more 's the pity ! " 

" What 's that about flat-irons and cats ? " asked Meg, as she 
crept into the room, with the finished letter in her hand. 

" Only one of my stupid speeches. I 'm going to bed ; come, 
Peggy," said Jo, unfolding herself, like an animated puzzle. 

"Quite right, and beautifully written. Please add that I 
send my love to John," said Mrs. March, as she glanced over 
the letter, and gave it back. 

* c Do you call him ' John ' ? " asked Meg smiling, with her 
innocent eyes looking down into her mother's. 



218 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Yes ; he has been like a son to us, and we are very fond of 
him," replied Mrs. March, returning the look with a keen one. 

" I 'm glad of that, he is so lonely. Good-night, mother, 
dear. It is so inexpressibly comfortable to have you here," 
was Meg's quiet answer. 

The kiss her mother gave her was a very tender one ; and, as 
she went away, Mrs. March said, with a mixture of satisfaction 
and regret, " She does not love John yet, but will soon learn to." 



CHAPTER XXI. 

LAURIE MAKES MISCHIEF, AND JO MAKES PEACE. 

Jo's face was a study next day, for the secret rather weighed 
upon her, and she found it hard not to look mysterious and im- 
portant. Meg observed it, but did not trouble herself to make 
inquiries, for she had learned that the best way to manage Jo 
was by the law of contraries so she felt sure of being told every- 
thing if she did not ask. She was rather surprised, therefore, 
when the silence remained unbroken, and Jo assumed a patroniz- 
ing air, which decidedly aggravated Meg, who in turn assumed 
an air of dignified reserve, and devoted herself to her mother. 
This left Jo to her own devices; for Mrs. March had taken 
her place as nurse, and bade her rest, exercise, and amuse her- 
self after her long confinement. Amy being gone, Laurie was 
her only refuge; and, much as she enjoyed his society, she 
rather dreaded him just then, for he was an incorrigible tease, 
and she feared he would coax her secret from her. 

She was quite right; for the mischief-loving lad no sooner 
suspected a mystery than he set himself to find it out, and led 
Jo a trying life of it. He wheedled, bribed, ridiculed, threat- 
ened, and scolded ; affected indifference, that he might surprise 
the truth from her ; declared he knew, then that he did n't care ; 
and at last, by dint of perseverance, he satisfied himself that 



LITTLE WOMEN 219 

it concerned Meg and Mr. Brooke. Feeling indignant that he 
was not taken into his tutor's confidence, he set his wits to work 
to devise some proper retaliation for the slight. 

Meg meanwhile had apparently forgotten the matter, and 
was absorbed in preparations for her father's return ; but all of 
a sudden a change seemed to come over her, and, for a day or 
two, she was quite unlike herself. She started when spoken 
to, blushed when looked at, was very quiet, and sat over her 
sewing, with a timid, troubled look on her face. To her mother's 
inquiries she answered that she was quite well, and Jo's she 
silenced by begging to be let alone. 

" She feels it in the air love, I mean and she 's going 
very fast. She 's got most of the symptoms, is twittery and 
cross, does n't eat, lies awake, and mopes in corners. I caught 
her singing that song he gave her, and once she said ' John/ 
as you do, and then turned as red as a poppy. Whatever shall 
we do ? " said Jo, looking ready for any measures, however 
violent. 

" Nothing but wait. Let her alone, be kind and patient and' 
father's coming will settle everything," replied her mother. 

" Here 's a note to you, Meg, all sealed up. How odd ! Teddy 
never seals mine," said Jo, next day, as she distributed the 
contents of the little post-office. 

Mrs. March and Jo were deep in their own affairs, when a 
sound from Meg made them look up to see her staring at her 
note, with a frightened face. 

" My child, what is it ? " cried her mother, running to hei 
while Jo tried to take the paper which had done the mischief. 

" It 's all a mistake he did n't send it. O Jo, how could you 
do it ? " and Meg hid her face in her hands, crying as if her 
heart was quite broken. 

"Me! I've done nothing! What's she talking about?" 
cried Jo, bewildered. 

Meg's mild eyes kindled with anger as she pulled a crumpled 
note from her pocket, and threw it at Jo, saying reproach- 
fully, 



220 LITTLE WOMEN 

"You wrote it, and that bad boy helped you. How couM 
you be so rude, so mean, and cruel to us both? " 

Jo hardly heard her, for she and her mother were reading 
the note, which was written in a peculiar hand. 

" MY DEAREST MARGARET, 

" I can no longer restrain my passion, and must know my 
fate before I return. I dare not tell your parents yet, but I 
think they would consent if they knew that we adored one an- 
other. Mr. Laurence will help me to some good place, and 
then, my sweet girl, you will make me happy. I implore you to 
say nothing to your family yet, but to send one word of hope 
through Laurie to 

" Your devoted JOHN," 

"Oh, the little villain! that's the way he nieant to pay me 
for keeping my word to mother. I '11 give him a hearty scold- 
ing, and bring him over to beg pardon,' ' cried Jo, burning to 
execute immediate justice. But her mother held her back, 
saying, with a look she seldom wore, 

" Stop, Jo, you must clear yourself first. You have played 
so many pranks, that I am afraid you have had a hand in 
this." 

" On my word, mother, I have n't ! I never saw that note 
before, and don't know anything about it, as true as I live! " 
said Jo, so earnestly that they believed her. " If I had taken a 
part in it I J d have done it better than this, and have written 
a sensible note. I should think you 'd have known Mr. Brooke 
would n't write such stuff as that," she added, scornfully tossing 
down the paper. 

" It's like his writing," faltered Meg, comparing it with the 
note in her hand. 

" O Meg, you did n't answer it ? " cried Mrs. March quickly. 

" Yes, I did 1 " and Meg hid her face again, overcome with 
shame. 

" Here 's a scrape ! Do let me bring that wicked boy over 



LITTLE WOMEN 221 

to explain, and be lectured. I can't rest till I get hold of him ; " 
and Jo made for the door again. 

" Hush ! let me manage this, for it is worse than I thought. 
Margaret, tell me the whole story," commanded Mrs. March, 
sitting down by Meg, yet keeping hold of Jo, lest she should 
fly off. 

" I received the first letter from Laurie, who did n't look as 
if he knew anything about it," began Meg, without looking up. 
" I was worried at first, and meant to tell you ; then I remem- 
bered how you liked Mr. Brooke, so I thought you wouldn't 
mind if I kept my little secret for a few days. I 'm so silly 
that I liked to think no one knew; and, while I was deciding 
what to say, I felt like the girls in books, who have such things 
to do. Forgive me, mother, I 'm paid for my silliness now ; I 
never can look him in the face again." 

" What did you say to him? " asked Mrs. March. 

" I only said I was too young to do anything about it yet ; 
that I did n't wish to have secrets from you, and he must speak 
to father. I was very grateful for his kindness, and would 
be his friend, but nothing more, for a long while." 

Mrs. March smiled, as if well pleased, and Jo clapped her 
hands, exclaiming, with a laugh, 

" You are almost equal to Caroline Percy, who was a pattern 
of prudence ! Tell on, Meg. What did he say to that? " 

" He writes in a different way entirely, telling me that he 
never sent any love-letter at all, and is very sorry that my 
roguish sister, Jo, should take such liberties with our names. 
It 's very kind and respectful, but think how dreadful for me ! " 

Meg leaned against her mother, looking the image of despair, 
and Jo tramped about the room, calling Laurie names. All of 
a sudden she stopped, caught up the two notes, and, after looking 
at them closely, said decidedly, " I don't believe Brooke ever 
saw either of these letters. Teddy wrote both, and keeps yours 
to crow over me with, because I would n't tell him my secret." 

" Don't have any secrets, Jo ; tell it to mother, and keep out 
of trouble, as I should have done," said Meg warningly. 



222 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Bless you, child ! Mother told me." 

" That will do, Jo. I '11 comfort Meg while you go and get 
Laurie. I shall sift the matter to the bottom, and put a stop 
to such pranks at once." 

Away ran Jo, and Mrs. March gently told Meg Mr. Brooke's 
real feelings. " Now, dear, what are your own ? Do you love 
him enough to wait till he can make a home for you, or will 
you keep yourself quite free for the present? " 

" I 've been so scared and worried, I don't want to have 
anything to do with lovers for a long while, perhaps never," 
answered Meg petulantly. "If John doesn't know anything 
about this nonsense, don't tell him, and make Jo and Laurie 
hold their tongues. I won't be deceived and plagued and made 
a fool of, it 's a shame ! " 

Seeing that Meg's usually gentle temper was roused and her 
pride hurt by this mischievous joke, Mrs. March soothed her 
by promises of entire silence, and great discretion for the future. 
The instant Laurie's step was heard in the hall, Meg fled into 
the study, and Mrs. March received the culprit alone. Jo had 
not told him why he was wanted, fearing he would n't come ; 
but he knew the minute he saw Mrs. March's face, and stood 
twirling his hat, with a guilty air which convicted him at once. 
Jo was dismissed, but chose to march up and down the hall 
like a sentinel, having some fear that the prisoner might bolt. 
The sound of voices in the parlor rose and fell for half an hour; 
but what happened during that interview the girls never knew. 

When they were called in, Laurie was standing by their 
mother, with such a penitent face that Jo forgave him on the 
spot, but did not think it wise to betray the fact. Meg received 
his humble apology, and was much comforted by the assurance 
that Brooke knew nothing of the joke. 

" I '11 never tell him to my dying day, wild horses sha'n't 
drag it out of me ; so you '11 forgive me Meg, and I '11 do any- 
thing to show how out-and-out sorry I am," he added, looking 
very much ashamed of himself. 

" I '11 try; but it was a very ungentlemanly thing to do. 1 



LITTLE WOMEN 223 

did n't think you could be so sly and malicious, Laurie," replied 
Meg, trying to hide her maidenly confusion under a gravely 
reproachful air. 

" It was altogether abominable, and I don't deserve to be 
spoken to for a month ; but you will, though, won't you ? " and 
Laurie folded his hands together with such an imploring ges- 
ture, as he spoke in his irresistibly persuasive tone, that it was 
impossible to frown upon him, in spite of his scandalous be- 
havior. Meg pardoned him, and Mrs. March's grave face 
relaxed, in spite of her efforts to keep sober, when she heard 
him declare that he would atone for his sins by all sorts of 
penances, and abase himself like a worm before the injured 
damsel. 

Jo stood aloof, meanwhile, trying to harden her heart against 
him, and succeeding only in primming up her face in an ex- 
pression of entire disapprobation. Laurie looked at her once 
or twice, but, as she showed no sign of relenting, he felt injured, 
and turned his back on her till the others were done with him, 
when he made her a low bow, and walked off without a word. 

As soon as he had gone, she wished she had been more for- 
giving; and when Meg and her mother went upstairs, she felt 
lonely, and longed for Teddy. After resisting for some time, 
she yielded to the impulse, and, armed with a book to return, 
went over to the big house. 

" Is Mr. Laurence in? " asked Jo, of a housemaid, who was 
coming downstairs. 

" Yes, miss; but I don't believe he 's seeable just yet." 

"Why not? is he ill?" 

" La, no, miss, but he 's had a scene with Mr. Laurie, who 
is in one of his tantrums about something, which vexes the 
old gentleman, so I dursn't go nigh him." 

"Where is Laurie?" 

" Shut up in his room, and he won't answer, though I 've been 
a-tapping. I don't know what 's to become of the dinner, for 
it 's ready, and there 's no one to eat it" 



224 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I '11 go and see what the matter is. I 'm not afraid of 
either of them." 

Up went Jo, and knocked smartly on the door of Laurie's 
little study. 

" Stop that, or I '11 open the door and make you ! " called out 
the young gentleman, in a threatening tone. 

Jo immediately knocked again; the door flew open, and in 
she bounced, before Laurie could recover from his surprise. 
Seeing that he really was out of temper, Jo, who knew how 
to manage him, assumed a contrite expression, and going artisti- 
cally down upon her knees, said meekly, " Please forgive me 
for being so cross. I came to make it up, and can't go away 
till I have." 

"It's all right. Get up, and don't be a goose, Jo," was the 
cavalier reply to her petition. 

" Thank you ; I will. Could I ask what 's the matter? You 
don't look exactly easy in your mind." 

" I 've been shaken, and I won't bear it ! " growled Laurie 
indignantly. 

"Who did it?" demanded Jo. 

" Grandfather; if it had been any one else I 'd have " and 
the injured youth finished his sentence by an energetic gesture 
of the right arm. 

" That 's nothing ; I often shake you, and you don't mind," 
said Jo soothingly. 

" Pooh ! you 're a girl, and it 's fun ; but I '11 allow no man to 
shake me." 

" I don't think any one would care to try it, if you looked as 
much like a thunder-cloud as you do now. Why were you 
treated so?" 

" Just because I would n't say what your mother wanted me 
for. I 'd promised not to tell, and of course I was n't going 
to break my word." 

" Could n't you satisfy your grandpa in any other way?" 

" No ; he would have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing 
but the truth. I 'd have told my part of the scrape, if I could 



LITTLE WOMEN 225 

without bringing Meg in. As I couldn't, I held my tongue, 
and bore the scolding till the old gentleman collared me. Then 
I got angry, and bolted, for fear I should forget myself." 

" It was n't nice, but he 's sorry, I know ; so go down and 
make up. I '11 help you." 

"Hanged if I do! I'm not going to be lectured and 
pummelled by every one, just for a bit of a frolic. I was sorry 
about Meg, and begged pardon like a man ; but I won't do it 
again, when I was n't in the wrong." 

" He did n't know that." 

" He ought to trust me, and not act as if I was a baby. It 's 
no use, Jo ; he 's got to learn that I 'm able to take care of 
myself, and don't need any one's apron-string to hold on by." 

" What pepper-pots you are ! " sighed Jo. " How do you 
mean to settle this affair ? " 

" Well, he ought to beg pardon, and believe me when I say 
I can't tell him what the fuss 's about." 

" Bless you ! he won't do that." 

" I won't go down till he does." 

" Now, Teddy, be sensible ; let it pass, and I '11 explain what I 
can. You can't stay here, so what 's the use of being melo- 
dramatic ? " 

" I don't intend to stay here long, any way. I '11 slip off and 
take a journey somewhere, and when grandpa misses me he '11 
come around fast enough." 

"I dare say; but you ought not to go and worry him." 

" Don't preach. I '11 go to Washington and see Brooke ; it 's 
gay there, and I '11 enjoy myself after the troubles." 

" What fun you 'd have ! I wish I could run off too," said 
Jo, forgetting her part of Mentor in lively visions of martial 
life at the capital. 

" Come on, then ! Why not ? You go and surprise your 
father, and I '11 stir up old Brooke. It would be a glorious joke ; 
let 's do it, Jo. We '11 leave a letter saying we are all right, 
and trot off at once. I 've got money enough ; it will do you 
good, and be no harm, as you go to your father." 



226 LITTLE WOMEN 

For a moment Jo looked as if she would agree; for, wild 
as the plan was, it just suited her. She was tired of care and 
confinement, longed for change, and thoughts of her father 
blended temptingly with the novel charms of camps and hospi- 
tals, liberty and fun. Her eyes kindled as they turned wistfully 
toward the window, but they fell on the old house opposite, 
and she shook her head with sorrowful decision. 

" If I was a boy, we 'd run away together, and have a capital 
time ; but as I 'm a miserable girl, I must be proper, and stop 
at home. Don't tempt, me Teddy, it 's a crazy plan." 

" That 's the fun of it," began Laurie, who had got a wilful 
fit on him, and was possessed to break out of bounds in some 

way. 

" Hold your tongue ! " cried Jo, covering her ears. " ' Prunes 
and prisms ' are my doom, and I may as well make up my 
mind to it. I came here to moralize, not to hear about things 
that make me skip to think of." 

" I know Meg would wet-blanket such a proposal, but 1 
thought you had more spirit," began Laurie insinuatingly. 

" Bad boy, be quiet ! Sit down and think of your own sins, 
don't go making me add to mine. If I get your grandpa to 
apologize for the shaking, will you give up running away ? " 
asked Jo seriously. 

" Yes, but you won't do it," answered Laurie, who wished 
" to make up," but felt that his outraged dignity must be ap- 
peased first. 

" If I can manage the young one I can the old one," muttered 
Jo, as she walked away, leaving Laurie bent over a railroad 
map, with his head propped up on both hands. 

" Come in ! " and Mr. Laurence's gruff voice sounded gruffer 
than ever, as Jo tapped at his door. 

" It 's only me, sir, come to return a book," she said blandly, 
as she entered. 

" Want any more ? " asked the old gentleman, looking grim 
and vexed, but trying not to show it. 

" Yfes, please. I like old Sam so well, I think I '11 try the 



LITTLE WOMEN 227 

second volume," returned Jo, hoping to propitiate him by ac- 
cepting a second dose of Boswell's " Johnson," as he had recom- 
mended that lively work. 

The shaggy eyebrows unbent a little, as he rolled the steps 
toward the shelf where the Johnsonian literature was placed. 
Jo skipped up, and, sitting on the top step, affected to be search- 
ing for her book, but was really wondering how best to introduce 
the dangerous object of her visit. Mr. Laurence seemed to 
suspect that something was brewing in her mind; for, after 
taking several brisk turns about the room, he faced round on 
her, speaking so abruptly that " Rasselas " tumbled face down- 
ward on the floor. 

" What has that boy been about? Don't try to shield him. 
I know he has been in mischief by the way he acted when he 
came home. I can't get a word from him ; and when I threat- 
ened to shake the truth out of him he bolted upstairs, and 
locked himself into his room." 

" He did do wrong, but we forgave him, and all promised not 
to say a word to any one," began Jo reluctantly. 

" That won't do ; he shall not shelter himself behind a promise 
from you soft-hearted girls. If he 's done anything amiss, he 
shall confess, beg pardon, and be punished. Out with it, Jo, 
I won't be kept in the dark." 

Mr. Laurence looked so alarming and spoke so sharply that 
Jo would have gladly run away, if she could, but she was 
perched aloft on the steps, and he stood at the foot, a lion in the 
path, so she had to stay and brave it out. 

" Indeed, sir, I cannot tell ! mother forbade it. Laurie has 
confessed, asked pardon, and been punished quite enough. We 
don't keep silence to shield him, but some one else, and it will 
make more trouble if you interfere. Please don't: it was partly 
my fault, but it's all right now; so let's forget it, and talk 
about the ' Rambler,' or something pleasant." 

" Hang the ' Rambler ! ' come down and give me your word 
that this harum-scarum boy of mine has n't done anything un- 



228 LITTLE WOMEN 

grateful or impertinent. If he has, after all your kindness to 
him, I '11 thrash him with my own hands." 

The threat sounded awful, but did not alarm Jo, for she knew 
the irascible old gentleman would never lift a finger against his 
grandson, whatever he might say to the contrary. She obedi- 
ently descended, and made as light of the prank as she could 
without betraying Meg or forgetting the truth. 

" Hum ha well, if the boy held his tongue because he 
promised, and not from obstinacy, I '11 forgive him. He 's a 
stubborn fellow, and hard to manage," said Mr. Laurence, rub- 
bing up his hair till it looked as if he had been out in a gale, 
and smoothing the frown from his brow with an air of relief. 

" So am I ; but a kind word will govern me when all the 
king's horses and all the king's men could n't," said Jo, trying 
to say a kind word for her friend, who seemed to get out of 
one scrape only to fall into another. 

" You think I 'm not kind to him, hey? " was the sharp an- 
swer. 

" Oh dear, no, sir ; you are rather too kind sometimes, and 
then just a trifle hasty when he tries your patience. Don't 
you think you are ? " 

Jo was determined to have it out now, and tried to look quite 
placid, though she quaked a little after her bold speech. To 
her great relief and surprise, the old gentleman only threw 
his spectacles on to the table with a rattle, and exclaimed 
frankly, 

" You 're right, girl, I am ! I love the boy, but he tries my 
patience past bearing, and I don't know how it will end, if 
we go on so." 

. " I '11 tell you, he '11 run away." Jo was sorry for that speech 
the minute it was made; she meant to warn him that Laurie 
would not bear much restraint, and hoped he would be more 
forbearing with the lad. 

Mr. Laurence's ruddy face changed suddenly, and he sat 
down, with a troubled glance at the picture of a handsome man, 
which hung 1 over his table. It was Laurie's father, who had 



LITTLE WOMEN 229 

run away in his youth and married against the imperious old 
man's will. Jo fancied he remembered and regretted the past, 
and she wished she had held her tongue. 

" He won't do it unless he is very much worried, and only 
threatens it sometimes, when he gets tired of studying. I often 
think I should like to, especially since my hair was cut; so, if 
you ever miss us, you may advertise for two boys, and look 
among the ships bound for India." 

She laughed as she spoke, and Mr. Laurence looked relieved, 
evidently taking the whole as a joke. 

" You hussy, how dare you talk in that way ? Where 's your 
respect for me, and your proper bringing up? Bless the boys 
and girls ! What torments they are ; yet we can't do without 
them," he said, pinching her cheeks good-humoredly. " Go and 
bring that boy down to his dinner, tell him it 's all right, and 
advise him not to put on tragedy airs with his grandfather. I 
won't bear it." 

" He won't come, sir ; he feels badly because you did n't be- 
lieve him when he said he could n't tell. I think the shaking 
hurt his feelings very much." 

Jo tried to look pathetic, but must have failed for Mr. Laur- 
ence began to laugh, and she knew the day was won. 

" I 'm sorry for that, and ought to thank him for not shak- 
ing me, I suppose. What the dickens does the fellow expect ? " 
and the old gentleman looked a trifle ashamed of his own 
testiness. 

If I were you, I 'd write him an apology, sir. He says he 
won't come down till he has one, and talks about Washington, 
and goes on in an absurd way. A formal apology will make him 
see how foolish he is, and bring him down quite amiable. Try 
it ; he likes fun, and this way is better than talking. I '11 carry 
it up, and teach him his duty." 

Mr. Laurence gave her a sharp look, and put on his spec- 
tacles, saying slowly, " You 're a sly puss, but I don't mind 
being managed by you and Beth. Here, give me a bit of paper, 
and let us have done with this nonsense." 



230 LITTLE WOMEN 

The note was written in the terras which one gentleman would 
use to another after offering some deep insult. Jo dropped a 
kiss on top of Mr. Laurence's bald head and ran up to slip 
the apology under Laurie's door, advising him, through the 
key-hole, to be submissive, decorous, and a few other agreeable 
impossibilities. Finding the door locked again, she left the 
note to do its work, and was going quietly away, when the 
young gentleman slid down the banisters, and waited for her 
at the bottom, saying, with his most virtuous expression of 
countenance, " What a good fellow you are, Jo ! Did you get 
blown up ? " he added, laughing. 

" No ; he was pretty mild, on the whole." 

"Ah! I got it all round; even you cast me off over there, 
and I felt just ready to go to the deuce," he began apologetically 

" Don't talk in that way ; turn over a new leaf and begin 
again, Teddy, my son." 

" I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I 
used to spoil my copy-books; and I make so many beginnings 
there never will be an end," he said dolefully. 

" Go and eat your dinner ; you '11 feel better after it. Men 
always croak when they are hungry," and Jo whisked out at the 
front door after that. 

" That 's a ' label ' on my ' sect,' " answered Laurie, quoting 
A.my, as he went to partake of humble-pie dutifully with his 
grandfather, who was quite saintly in temper and overwhelm- 
ingly respectful in manner all the rest of the day. 

Every one thought the matter ended and the little cloud 
blown over ; but the mischief was done, for, though others for- 
got it, Meg remembered. She never alluded to a certain person, 
but she thought of him a good deal, dreamed dreams more than 
ever; and once Jo, rummaging her sister's desk for stamps, 
found a bit of paper scribbled over with the words, " Mrs. 
John Brooke ; " whereat she groaned tragically, and cast it 
into the fire, feeling that Laurie's prank had hastened the evil 
day for her. 



LITTLE WOMEN 231 



CHAPTER XXII. 

PLEASANT MEADOWS. 

LIKE sunshine after storm were the peaceful weeks which 
followed. The invalids improved rapidly, and Mr. March be- 
gan to talk of returning early in the new year. Beth was soon 
able to lie on the study sofa all day, amusing herself with the 
well-beloved cats, at first, and, in time, with doll's sewing, which 
had fallen sadly behindhand. Her once active linibs were so 
stiff and feeble that Jo took her a daily airing about the house 
in her strong arms. Meg cheerfully blackened and burnt her 
white hands cooking delicate messes for " the dear ; " while 
Amy, a loyal slave of the ring, celebrated her return by giving 
away as many of her treasures as she could prevail on her 
sisters to accept. 

As Christmas approached, the usual mysteries began to haunt 
the house, and Jo frequently convulsed the family by proposing 
utterly impossible or magnificently absurd ceremonies, in honor 
of this unusually merry Christmas. Laurie was equally im- 
practicable, and would have had bonfires, sky-rockets, and 
triumphal arches, if he had had his own way. After many 
skirmishes and snubbings, the ambitious pair were considered 
effectually quenched and went about with forlorn faces, which 
were rather belied by explosions of laughter when the two got 
together. 

Several days of unusually mild weather fitly ushered in a 
splendid Christmas Day. Hannah " felt in her bones " that 
it was going to be an unusually fine day, and she proved her- 
self a true prophetess, for everybody and everything seemed 
bound to produce a grand success. To begin with, Mr. March 
wrote that he would soon be with them; then Beth felt un- 
commonly well that morning, and, being dressed in her mother's 
gift, a soft crimson merino wrapper, was borne in triumph 



232 LITTLE WOMEN 

to the window to behold the offering of Jo and Laurie. The Un- 
quenchables had done their best to be worthy of the name, for, 
like elves, they had worked by night, and conjured up a comical 
surprise. Out in the garden stood a stately snow-maiden, 
crowned with holly, bearing a basket of fruit and flowers in one 
hand, a great roll of new music in the other, a perfect rainbow 
of an Afghan round her chilly shoulders, and a Christmas carol 
issuing from her lips on a pink paper streamer : 

" THE JUNGFRAU TO BETH. 

"God bless you, dear Queen Bess! 

May nothing you dismay, 
But health and peace and happiness 
Be yours, this Christmas Day. 

" Here 's fruit to feed our busy bee, 

And flowers for her nose; 
Here 's music for her pianee, 
An Afghan for her toes. 

"A portrait of Joanna, see, 

By Raphael No. 2, 
Who labored with great industry 
To make it fair and true. 

"Accept a ribbon red, I beg, 
For Madam Purrer's tail; 
And ice-cream made by lovely Peg, 
A Mont Blanc in a pail. 

"Their dearest love my makers laid 

Within my breast of snow: 

Accept it, and the Alpine maid, 

From Laurie and from Jo." 

How Beth laughed when she saw it, how Laurie ran up and 
down to bring in the gifts, and what ridiculous speeches Jo 
made as she presented them ! 

" I 'm so full of happiness, that, if father was only here, J 



LITTLE WOMEN 233 

coulcf n't hold one drop more," said Beth, quite sighing with con- 
tentment as Jo carried her off to the study to rest after the 
excitement, and to refresh herself with some of the delicious 
grapes the " Jungfrau " had sent her. 

" So am I," added Jo, slapping the pocket wherein reposed 
the long-desired Undine and Sintram. 

" I 'm sure I am," echoed Amy, poring over the engraved 
copy of the Madonna and Child, which her mother had given 
her, in a pretty frame. 

" Of course I am ! " cried Meg, smoothing the silvery folds 
of her first silk dress; for Mr. Laurence had insisted on giv- 
ing it. 

" How can / be otherwise ? " said Mrs. March gratefully, 
as her eyes went from her husband's letter to Beth's smiling 
face and her hand caressed the brooch made of gray and golden, 
chestnut and dark brown hair, which the girls had just fastened 
on her breast. 

Now and then, in this work-a-day world, things do happen 
in the delightful story-book fashion, and what a comfort that 
is. Half an hour after every one had said they were so happy 
they could only hold one drop more, the drop came. Laurie 
opened the parlor door, and popped his head in very quietly. 
He might just as well have turned a somersault and uttered 
an Indian war-whoop; for his face was so full of suppressed 
excitement and his voice so treacherously joyful, that every 
one jumped up, though he only said, in a queer, breathless voice, 
" Here 's another Christmas present for the March family." 

Before the words were well out of his mouth, he was whisked 
away somehow, and in his place appeared a tall man, muffled 
up to the eyes, leaning on the arm of another tall man, who 
tried to say something and couldn't. Of course there was a 
general stampede; and for several minutes everybody seemed 
to lose their wits, for the strangest things were done, and no 
one said a word. Mr. March became invisible in the embrace 
of fo*ir pairs of loving arms; Jo disgraced herself by nearly 
fainting away, and had to be doctored by Laurie in the china- 



234 LITTLE WOMEN 

closet : Mr. Brooke kissed Meg entirely by mistake, as he some- 
what incoherently explained ; and Amy, the dignified, tumbled 
over a stool, and, never stopping to get up, hugged and cried 
over her father's boots in the most touching manner. Mrs. 
March was the first to recover herself, and held up her hand 
with a warning, " Hush ! remember Beth ! " 

But it was too late; the study door flew open, the little red 
wrapper appeared on the threshold, joy put strength into the 
feeble limbs, and Beth ran straight into her father's arms. 
Never mind what happened just after that ; for the full hearts 
overflowed, washing away the bitterness of the past, and leaving 
only the sweetness of the present. 

It was not at all romantic, but a hearty laugh set everybody 
straight again, for Hannah was discovered behind the door, 
sobbing over the fat turkey, which she had forgotten to put 
down when she rushed up from the kitchen. As the laugh 
subsided, Mrs. March began to thank Mr. Brooke for his 
faithful care of her husband, at which Mr. Brooke suddenly 
remembered that Mr. March needed rest, and, seizing Laurie, 
he precipitately retired. Then the two invalids were ordered 
to repose, which they did, by both sitting in one big chair, and 
talking hard. 

Mr. March told how he had longed to surprise them, and 
how, when the fine weather came, he had been allowed by his 
doctor to take advantage of it; how devoted Brooke had been, 
and how he was altogether a most estimable and upright young 
man. Why Mr. March paused a minute just there, and, after 
a glance at Meg, who was violently poking the fire, looked at 
his wife with an inquiring lift of his eyebrows, I leave you to 
imagine; also why Mrs. March gently nodded her head, and 
asked, rather abruptly, if he would n't have something to eat. 
Jo saw and understood the look; and she stalked grimly away 
to get wine and beef-tea, muttering to herself, as she slammed 
the door, " I hate estimable young men with brown eyes ! " 

There never was such a Christmas dinner as they had that 
day. The fat turkey was a sight to behold, when Hannah sent 



LITTLE WOMEN 235 

him up, stuffed, browned, and decorated; so was the plum- 
pudding, which quite melted in one's mouth; likewise the jellies, 
in which Amy revelled like a fly in a honey-pot. Everything 
turned out well, which was a mercy, Hannah said, " For my 
mind was that flustered, mum, that it 's a merrycle I did n't roast 
the pudding, and stuff the turkey with raisins, let alone bilin' 
of it in a cloth." 

Mr. Laurence and his grandson dined with them, also Mr. 
Brooke, at whom Jo glowered darkly, to Laurie's infinite 
amusement. Two easy-chairs stood side by side at the head 
of the table, in which sat Beth and her father, feasting modestly 
on chicken and a little fruit. They drank healths, told stories, 
sung songs, " reminisced," as the old folks say, and had a 
thoroughly good time. A sleigh-ride had been planned, but the 
girls would not leave their father ; so the guests departed early, 
and, as twilight gathered, the happy family sat together round 
the fire. 

" Just a year ago we were groaning over the dismal Christmas 
we expected to have. Do you remember ? " asked Jo, break- 
ing a short pause which had followed a long conversation about 
many things. 

" Rather a pleasant year on the whole ! " said Meg, smiling 
at the fire, and congratulating herself on having treated Mr. 
Brooke with dignity. 

" I think it 's been a pretty hard one," observed Amy watch- 
ing the light shine on her ring, with thoughtful eyes. 

" I 'm glad it 's over, because we Ve got you back," whispered 
Beth, who sat on her father's knee. _ 

" Rather a rough road for you to travel, my little pilgrims, 
especially the latter part of it. But you have got on bravely; 
and I think the burdens are in a fair way to tumble off very \ 
soon," said Mr. March, looking with fatherly satisfaction at \ 
the four young faces gathered round him. ^ 

" How do you know ? Did mother tell you ? " asked Jo. 

" Not much ; straws show which way the wind blows, and 
I 've made several discoveries to-day." 



236 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Oh, tell us what they are ! " cried Meg, who sat beside him. 

" Here is one ; " and taking up the hand which lay on the 
arm of his chair, he pointed to the roughened forefinger, a burn 
on the back, and two or three little hard spots on the palm. " I 
remember a time when this hand was white and smooth, and 
your first care was to keep it so. It was very pretty then, but 
to me it is much prettier now, for in these seeming blemishes 
I read a little history. A burnt-offering has been made of 
vanity; this hardened palm has earned something better than 
blisters ; and I 'm sure the sewing done by these pricked fingers 
will last a long time, so much good- will went into the stitches. 
Meg, my dear, I value the womanly skill which keeps home 
happy more than white hands or fashionable accomplishments. 
I 'm proud to shake this good, industrious little hand, and hope 
I shall not soon be asked to give it away." 

If Meg had wanted a reward for hours of patient labor, she 
received it in a hearty pressure of her father's hand and the 
approving smile he gave her. 

" What about Jo ? Please say something nice ; for she has 
tried so hard, and been so very, very good to me," said Beth, 
in her father's ear. 

He laughed, and looked across at the tall girl who sat opposite, 
with an unusually mild expression in her brown face. 

" In spite of the curly crop, I don't see the ' son Jo ' whom 
I left a year ago," said Mr. March. " I see a young lady who 
pins her collar straight, laces her boots neatly, and neither 
whistles, talks slang, nor lies on the rug as she used to do. Her 
face is rather thin and pale, just now, with watching and 
anxiety; but I like to look at it, for it has grown gentler, and 
her voice is lower ; she does n't bounce, but moves quietly, and 
takes care of a certain little person in a motherly way which 
delights me. I rather miss my wild girl ; but if I get a strong, 
helpful, tender-hearted woman in her place, I shall feel quite 
satisfied. I don't Know whether the shearing sobered our black 
sheep, but I do know that in all Washington I could n't find 



LITTLE WOMEN 237 

anything beautiful enough to be bought with the five-and-twenty 
dollars which my good girl sent me." 

Jo's keen eyes were rather dim for a minute, and her thin 
face grew rosy in the firelight, as she received her father's 
praise, feeling that she did deserve a portion of it. 

" Now Beth," said Amy, longing for her turn, but ready to 
wait. 

"There 's so little of her, I 'm afraid to say much, for fear 
she will slip away altogether, though she is not so shy as she 
used to be," began their father cheerfully ; but recollecting how 
nearly he had lost her, he held her close, saying tenderly, with 
her cheek against his own, " I 've got you safe, my Beth, and 
I '11 keep you so, please God." 

After a minute's silence, he looked down at Amy, who sat on 
the cricket at his feet, and said, with a caress of the shining 
hair,- 

" I observed that Amy took drumsticks at dinner, ran errands 
for her mother all the afternoon, gave Meg her place to-night, 
and has waited on every one with patience and good-humor. 
I also observe that she does not fret much nor look in the glass, 
and has not even mentioned a very pretty ring which she wears ; 
so I conclude that she has learned to think of other people more 
and of herself less, and has decided to try and mould her 
character as carefully as she moulds her little clay figures. 
I am glad of this; for though I should be very proud of a 
graceful statue made by her, I shall be infinitely prouder of a 
lovable daughter, with a talent for making life beautiful to 
herself and others." 

"What are you thinking of, Beth?" asked Jo, when Amy 
had thanked her father and told about her ring. 

" I read in ' Pilgrim's Progress ' to-day, how, after many 
troubles, Christian and Hopeful came to a pleasant green 
meadow, where lilies bloomed all the year round, and there 
they rested happily, as we do now, before they went on to their 
journey's end," answered Beth; adding, as she slipped out of 
her father's arms, and went slowly to the instrument, " It's 



238 LITTLE WOMEN 

singing time now, and I want to be in my old place. I '11 try 
to sing the song of the shepherd-boy which the Pilgrims heard. 
I made the music for father, because he likes the verses." 

So, sitting at the dear little piano, Beth softly touched the 
keys, and, in the sweet voice they had never thought to hear 
again, sang to her own accompaniment the quaint hymn, which 
was a^ singularly fitting song for her : 

" He that is down need fear no fall, 

He that is low no pride ; 
He that is humble ever shall 
Have God to be his guide. 

" I am content with what I have, 

Little be it or much; 
And, Lord ! contentment still I crave 
Because Thou savest such. 

"Fulness to them a burden is, 

That go on pilgrimage; 
Here little, and hereafter bliss, 
Is best from age to age ! " 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

AUNT MARCH SETTLES THE QUESTION. 

LIKE bees swarming after their queen, mother and daughters 
hovered about Mr. March the next day, neglecting everything 
to look at, wait upon, and listen to the new invalid, who was in 
a fair way to be killed by kindness. As he sat propped up in a 
big chair by Beth's sofa, with the other three close by, and 
Hannah popping in her head now and then, " to peek at the dear 
man," nothing seemed needed to complete their happiness. But 
something was needed, and the elder ones felt it, though none 
confessed the fact. Mr. and Mrs. March looked at one another 
with an anxious expression, as their eyes followed Meg. Jo had 



LITTLE WOMEN 239 

sudden fits of sobriety, and was seen to shake her fist at 
Mr. Brooke's umbrella, which had been left in the hall; Meg 
was absent-minded, shy, and silent, started when the bell rang, 
and colored when John's name was mentioned; Amy said 
" Every one seemed waiting for something, and could n't settle 
down, which was queer, since father was safe at home," and 
Beth innocently wondered why their neighbors did n't run over 
as usual. 

Laurie went by in the afternoon, and, seeing Meg at the 
window, seemed suddenly possessed with a melodramatic fit, 
for he fell down upon one knee in the snow, beat his breast, 
tore his hair, and clasped his hands imploringly, as if begging 
some boon ; and when Meg told him to behave himself and go 
away, he wrung imaginary tears out of his handkerchief, and 
staggered round the corner as if in utter despair. 

" What does the goose mean ? " said Meg, laughing, and 
trying to look unconscious. 

" He 's showing you how your John will go on by and by. 
Touching, is n't it ? " answered Jo scornfully. 

" Don't say my John, it is n't proper or true ; " but Meg's 
voice lingered over the words as if they sounded pleasant to her. 
" Please don't plague me, Jo ; I 've told you I don't care much 
about him, and there is n't to be anything said, but we are all 
to be friendly, and go on as before." 

" We can't, for something has been said, and Laurie's mischief 
has spoilt you for me. I see it, and so does mother; you are 
not like your old self a bit, and seem ever so far away from me. 
I don't mean to plague you, and wilLbear it likr a^maTtrbut I 
do wish it was all settled. I hate to wait ; so if you mean ever 
to do it, make haste and have it over quickly," said Jo pettishly. 

"/ can't say or do anything till he speaks, and he won't, 
because father said I was too young," began Meg, bending over 
her work, with a queer little smile, which suggested that she did 
not quite agree with her father on that point. 

" If he did speak, you would n't know what to say, but would 



340 LITTLE WOMEN 

cry or blush, or let him have his own way, instead of giving 
a good, decided, No." 

" I 'm not so silly and weak as you think. I know just what 
I should say, for 'I 've planned it all, so I need n't be taken 
unawares ; there 's no knowing what may happen, and I wished 
to be prepared." 

Jo could n't help smiling at the important air which Meg had 
unconsciously assumed, and which was as becoming as the 
pretty color varying in her cheeks. 

" Would you mind tell me what you 'd say ? " asked Jo more 
respectfully. 

" Not at all ; you are sixteen now, quite old enough to be my 
confidant, and my experience will be useful to you by and by, 
perhaps, in your own affairs of this sort." 

" Don't mean to have any ; it 's fun to watch other people 
philander, but I should feel like a fool doing it myself," said Jo, 
looking alarmed at the thought. 

" I think not, if you liked any one very much, and he liked 
you." Meg spoke as if to herself, and glanced out at the lane, 
where she had often seen lovers walking together in the summer 
twilight. 

" I thought you were going to tell your speech to that man," 
said Jo, rudely shortening her sister's little reverie. 

" Oh, I should merely say, quite calmly and decidedly, ' Thank 
you, Mr. Brooke, you are very kind, but I agree with father 
that I am too young to enter into any engagement at present; 
so please say no more, but let us be friends as we were.' " 

" Hum ! that's stiff and cool enough. I don't believe you '11 
ever say it, and I know he won't be satisfied if you do. If he 
goes on like the rejected lovers in books, you '11 give in, rather 
than hurt his feelings." 

" No, I won't. I shall tell him I 've made up my mind, and 
shall walk out of the room with dignity." 

Meg rose as she spoke, and was just going to rehearse the 
dignified exit, when a step in the hall made her fly into her seat, 
and begin to sew as if her life depended on finishing that 



LITTLE WOMEN 241 

particular seam in a given time; Jo smothered a laugh at the 
sudden change, and, when some one gave a modest tap, opened 
the door with a grim aspect, which was anything but hospitable. 
"Good afternoon. I came to get my umbrella,- that is, 
to see how your father finds himself to-day," said Mr. Brooke, 
getting a trifle confused as his eye went from one tell-tale face 
to the other. 

"It's very well, he's in the rack, I'll get him, and tell it 
you are here," and having jumbled her father and the umbrella 
well together in her reply, Jo slipped out of the room to give 
Meg a chance to make her speech and air her dignity. But the 
instant she vanished, Meg began to sidle towards the door, 
murmuring, 

"Mother will like to see you. Pray sit down, I '11 call her." 

" Don't go ; are you afraid of me, Margaret ? " and Mr. 

Brooks looked so hurt that Meg thought she must have done 

something very rude. She blushed up to the little curls on her 

forehead, for he had never called her Margaret before, and she 

was surprised to find how natural and sweet it seemed to hear 

him say it. Anxious to appear friendly and at her ease, she put 

but her hand with a confiding gesture, and said gratefully, 

"How can I be afraid when you have been so kind to father ? 

I only wish I could thank you for it." 

"Shall I tell you how? "asked Mr, Brooke, holding the small 
hand fast in both his own, and looking down at Meg with so 
much love in the brown eyes, that her heart began to flutter, 
and she both longed to run away and to stop and listen. 

" Oh, no, please don't I'd rather not," she said, trying to 

withdraw her hand, and looking frightened in spite of her denial. 

" I won't trouble you, I only want to know if you care for me 

a little, Meg. I love you so much, dear," added Mr. Brooke 

tenderly. 

This was the moment for the calm, proper speech, but Meg 
did n't make it ; she forgot every word of it, hung her head, and 
answered, " I don't know," so softly, that John had to stoop 
down to catch the foolish little reply." 



242 LITTLE WOMEN 

He seemed to think it was worth the trouble, for he smiled to 
himself as if quite satisfied, pressed the plump hand gratefully, 
and said, in his most persuasive tone, " Will you try and find 
out ? I want to know so much ; for I can't go to work with any 
heart until I learn whether I am to have my reward in the end 
or not." 

" I 'm too young/' faltered Meg, wondering why she was so 
fluttered, yet rather enjoying it. 

" I '11 wait ; and in the meantime, you could be learning to 
like me. Would it be a very hard lesson, dear ? " 
" Not if I chose to learn it, but " 

" Please choose to learn, Meg. I love to teach, and this is 
easier than German," broke in John, getting possession of the 
other hand, so that she had no way of hiding her face, as he 
bent to look into it. 

His tone was properly beseeching; but, stealing a shy look 
at him, Meg saw that his eyes were merry as well as tender, and 
that he wore the satisfied smile of one who had no doubt of his 
success. This nettled her; Annie Moffat's foolish lessons in 
coquetry came into her mind, and the love of power, which 
sleeps in the bosoms of the best of little women, woke up all 
of a sudden and took possession of her. She felt excited and 
strange, and, not knowing what else to do, followed a capricious 
impulse, and, withdrawing her hands, said petulantly, " I don't 
choose. Please go away and let me be ! " 

Poor Mr. Brooke looked as if his lovely castle in the air was 
tumbling about his ears, for he had never seen Meg in such a 
mood before, and it rather bewildered him. 

" Do you really mean that ? " he asked anxiously, following 
her as she walked away. 

" Yes, I do ; I don't want to be worried about such things. 
Father says I need n't ; it 's too soon and I 'd rather not." 

" May n't I hope you '11 change your mind by and by ? I '11 
wait, and say nothing till you have had more time. Don't play 
with me, Meg. I did n't think that of you." 
" Don't think of me at all. I 'd rather you would n't/' said 



LITTLE WOMEN 243 

Meg, taking a naughty satisfaction in trying her lover's patience 
and her own power. 

He was grave and pale now, and looked decidedly more like 
the novel heroes whom she admired ; but he neither slapped his 
forehead nor tramped about the room, as they did ; he just stood 
looking at her so wistfully, so tenderly, that she found her heart 
relenting in spite of her. What would have happened next I 
cannot say, if Aunt March had not come hobbling in at this 
interesting minute. 

The old lady could n't resist her longing to see her nephew ; 
for she had met Laurie as she took her airing, and, hearing of 
Mr. March's arrival, drove straight out to see him. The family 
were all busy in the back part of the house, and she had made 
her way quietly in, hoping to surprise them. She did surprise 
two of them so much that Meg started as if she had seen a 
ghost, and Mr. -Brooke vanished into the study. 

" Bless me, what 's all this ? " cried the old lady, with a rap 
of her cane, as she glanced from the pale young gentleman to 
the scarlet young lady. 

" It 's father's friend. I 'm so surprised to see you ! " 
stammered Meg, feeling that she was in for a lecture now. 

" That 's evident," returned Aunt March, sitting down. " But 
what is father's friend saying to make you look like a peony? 
There 's mischief going on, and I insist upon knowing what 
it is," with another rap. 

"We were merely talking. Mr. Brooke came for his 
umbrella," began Meg, wishing that Mr. Brooke and the 
umbrella were safely out of the house. 

"Brooke? That boy's tutor? Ah! I understand now. I 
know all about it. Jo blundered into a wrong message in one 
of your father's letters, and I made her tell me. You have n't 
gone and accepted him, child ? " cried Aunt March, looking 
scandalized. 

" Hush ! he '11 hear. Sha'n't I call mother ? " said Meg, much 
troubled. 
" Not yet. I Ve something to say to you, and I must free my 



LITTLE WOMEN 

mind at once, Tell me, do you mean to marry this .Cook? 
If you do, not one penny of my money ever goes to you. 
Remember that, and be a sensible girl," said the old lady 
impressively. 

Now Aunt March possessed in perfection the art of rousing 
the spirit of opposition in the gentlest people, and enjoyed 
doing it. The best of us have a spice of perversity in us, 
especially when we are young and in love. If Aunt March 
had begged Meg to accept John Brooke, she would probably 
have declared she could n't think of it ; but as she was peremp- 
torily ordered not to like him, she immediately made up her 
mind that she would. Inclination as well as perversity made the 
decision easy, and, being already much excited, Meg opposed 
the old lady with unusual spirit. 

" I shall marry whom I please, Aunt March, and you can 
leave your money to any one you like," she said, nodding her 
head with a resolute air. 

" Highty tighty ! Is that the way you take my advice, miss ? 
You '11 be sorry for it, by and by, when you 've tried love in a 
cottage, and found it a failure." 

" It can't be a worse one than some people find in big houses," 
retorted Meg. 

Aunt March put on her glasses and took a look at the girl, 
for she did not know her in this new mood. Meg hardly knew 
herself, she felt so brave and independent, so glad to defend 
John, and assert her right to love him, if she liked. Aunt March 
saw that she had begun wrong, and, after a little pause, made a 
fresh start, saying, as mildly as she could, "Now, Meg, my 
dear, be reasonable and take my advice. I mean it kindly, and 
don't want you to spoil your whole life by making a mistake at 
the beginning. You ought to marry well, and help your family ; 
it's your duty to make a rich match, and it ought to be 
impressed upon you." 

" Father and mother don't think so ; they like John, though 
he is poor." 



LITTLE WOMEN 345 

" Your parents, my dear, have no more worldly wisdom than 
two babies." 

" I 'm glad of it," cried Meg stoutly. 

Aunt March took no notice, but went on with her lecture. 
" This Rook is poor, and has n't got any rich relations, has he ? " 

" No ; but he has many warm friends." 

" You can't live on friends ; try it, and see how cool they '11 
grow. He has n't any business, has he ? " 

" Not yet ; Mr. Laurence is going to help him." 

" That won't last long. James Laurence is a crotchety old 
fellow, and not to be depended on. So you intend to marry a 
man without money, position, or business, and go on working 
harder than you do now, when you might be comfortable all 
your days by minding me and doing better ? I thought you had 
more sense, Meg." 

" I could n't do better if I waited half my life ! John is good 
and wise; he's got heaps of talent; he's willing to work, and 
sure to get on, he 's so energetic and brave. Every one likes 
and respects him, and I 'm proud to think he cares for me, 
though I 'm so poor and young and silly," said Meg, looking 
prettier than ever in her earnestness. 

" He knows you have got rich relations, child ; that 's the 
secret of his liking, I suspect." 

"Aunt March, how dare you say such a thing? John is 
above such meanness, and I won't listen to you a minute if you 
talk so," cried Meg indignantly, forgetting everything but the 
injustice of the old lady's suspicions. " My John would n't 
marry for money, any more than I would. We are willing to 
work, and we mean to wait. I 'm not afraid of being poor, for 
I 've been happy so far, and I know I shall be with him, because 
he loves me, and I " 

Meg stopped there, remembering all of a sudden that she 

hadn't made up her mind; that she had told "her John " to 

go away, and that he might be overhearing her inconsistent 

remarks. 

Aunt March was very angry, for she had set her heart on 



246 LITTLE WOMEN 

having her pretty niece make a fine match, and something in 
the girl's happy young face made the lonely old woman feel 
both sad and sour. 

"Well, I wash my hands of the whole affair! You are a 
wilful child, and you Ve lost more than you know by this piece 
of folly. No, I won't stop ; I 'm disappointed in you, and 
have n't spirits to see your father now. Don't expect anything 
from me when you are married ; your Mr. Book's friends must 
take care of you. I 'm done with you forever." 

And, slamming the door in Meg's face, Aunt March drove 
off in high dudgeon. She seemed to take all the girl's courage 
with her ; for, when left alone, Meg stood a moment, undecided 
whether to laugh or cry. Before she could make up her mind, 
she was taken possession of by Mr. Brooke, who said, all in 
one breath, " I could n't help hearing, Meg. Thank you for 
defending me, and Aunt March for proving that you do care 
for me a little bit." 

" I did n't know how much, till she abused you," began Meg. 

" And I need n't go away, but may stay and be happy, may I, 
dear?" 

Here was another fine chance to make the crushing speech 
and the stately exit, but Meg never thought of doing either, 
and disgraced herself forever in Jo's eyes by meekly whispering, 
" Yes, John," and hiding her face on Mr. Brooke's waistcoat. 

Fifteen minutes after Aunt March's departure, Jo came softly 
downstairs, paused an instant at the parlor door, and, hearing 
no sound within, nodded and smiled, with a satisfied expression, 
saying to herself, " She has seen him away as we planned, and 
that affair is settled. I '11 go and hear the fun, and have a good 
laugh over it." 

But poor Jo ncv/sr got her laugh, for she was transfixed upon 
the threshold by a spectacle whick held her there, staring with 
her mouth nearly as wide open as her eyes. Going in to exult 
over a fallen enemy, and to praise a strong-minded sister for 
the banishment of an objectionable lover, it certainly was a 
shock to behold the aforesaid enemy serenely sitting on the sofa, 



LITTLE WOMEN 247 

with the strong-minded sister enthroned upon his knee, and 
wearing an expression of the most abject submission. Jo gave 
a sort of gasp, as if a cold shower-bath had suddenly fallen upon 
her, for such an unexpected turning of the tables actually 
took her breath away. At the odd sound, the lovers turned and 
saw her. Meg jumped up, looking both proud and shy; but 
"that man," as Jo called him, actually laughed, and said 
coolly, as he kissed the astonished new-comer, " Sister Jo, 
congratulate us ! " 

That was adding insult to injury, it was altogether too 
much, and, making some wild demonstration with her hands, 
Jo vanished without a word. Rushing upstairs, she startled 
the invalids by exclaiming tragically, as she burst into the room, 
" Oh, da somebody go down quick ; John Brooke is acting 
dreadfully, and Meg likes it ! " 

Mr. and Mrs. March left the room with speed; and, casting 
herself upon the bed, Jo cried and scolded tempestuously as she 
told the awful news to Beth and Amy. The little girls, however, 
considered it a most agreeable and interesting event, and Jo got 
little comfort from them ; so she went up to her refuge in the 
garret, and confided her troubles to the rats. 

Nobody ever knew what went on in the parlor that afternoon ; 
but a great deal of talking was done, and quiet Mr. Brooke 
astonished his friends by the eloquence and spirit with which he 
pleaded his suit, told his plans, and persuaded them to arrange 
everything just as he wanted it. 

The tea-bell rang before he had finished describing the 
paradise which he meant to earn for Meg, and he proudly 
took her in to supper, both looking so happy that Jo hadn't 
the heart to be jealous or dismal. Amy was very much 
impressed by John's devotion and Meg's dignity, Beth beamed 
at them from a distance, while Mr. and Mrs. March surveyed 
the young couple with such tender satisfaction that it was 
perfectly evident Aunt March was right in calling them as 
" unworldly as a pair of babies." No one ate much, but every 
one looked very happy, and the old room seemed to brighten 



248 LITTLE WOMEN 

up amazingly when the first romance of the family began there. 

"You can't say nothing pleasant ever happens now, can you* 
Meg ? " said Amy, trying to decide how she would group the 
lovers in the sketch she was planning to take. 

" No, I 'm sure I can't. How much has happened since I 
said that ! It seems a year ago," answered Meg, who was in a 
blissful dream, lifted far above such common things as bread 
and butter. 

" The joys come close upon the sorrows this time, and I 
rather think the changes have begun," said Mrs. March. " In 
most families there comes, now and then, a year full of events ; 
this has been such an one, but it ends well, after all." 

" Hope the next will end better," muttered Jo, who found it 
very hard to see Meg absorbed in a stranger before her face; 
for Jo loved a few persons very dearly, and dreaded to have 
their affection lost or lessened in any way. 

" I hope the third year from this will end better ; I mean it 
shall, if I live to work out my plans," said Mr. Brooke, smiling 
at Meg, as if everything had become possible to him now. 

" Does n't it seem very long to wait ? " asked Amy, who was 
in a hurry for the wedding. 

" I *ve got so much to learn before I shall be ready, it seems 
a short time to me," answered Meg, with a sweet gravity in her 
face, never seen there before. 

" You have only to wait ; / am to do the work," said John, 
beginning his labors by picking up Meg's napkin, with an 
expression which caused Jo to shake her head, and then say 
to herself, with an air of relief, as the front door banged. 
"Here conies Laurie. Now we shall have a little sensible 
conversation." 

But Jo was mistaken; for Laurie came prancing in, over- 
flowing with spirits, bearing a great bridal-looking bouquet for 
" Mrs. John Brooke," and evidently laboring under the delusion 
that the whole affair had been brought about by his excellent 
management. 

"I knew Brooke would have it all his own way, he always 



UTTLE WOMEN 249 



does; for ; when he makes u^^-n?u^.to c 2M^nuxlish anything, 
it's done, though the sky falls^' said r Laurie, when ; he, had 
presented his offering and his congratulations. 
;l"Much obliged for that recommendation, I take it as a 
good omen for the future, and invite you to my wedding on 
the spot," answered Mr. Brooke, who felt at peace with all 
mankind, even his mischievous pupil. 

"I'll come if I'm at the ends of the earth; for the sight of 
Jo's face alone, on that occasion, would be worth a long journey. 
You don't look festive, ma'am; what V the matter ?" asked 
Laurie, following her into a corner of the parlor, whither all 
had adjourned to greet Mr. Laurence. 

"I don't approve of the match, but I 've made up my mind 
to bear it, and shall not say a word against it," said Jo solemnly. 
" You can't know how hard it is for me to give up Meg," she 
continued, with a little quiver in her voice. > 

"You don't give her up. You only go halves," said Laurie 
consolingly. 

..." It never can be the same again. I've lost my dearest 
friend," sighed Jo. 

" You 've got me, anyhow. I 'm not. good for much, I know; 
but I '11 stand by you, Jo, all the days of my life ; upon my word 
I will ! " and Laurie meant what he said. 

" I know you will, and I 'm ever so much obliged ; you are 
always a great comfort to me, Teddy," returned Jo, gratefully 
shaking hands. 

" Well, now, don't be dismal, there 's a good fellow. It 's all 
right, you see. Meg is happy; Brooke will fly round and get 
settled immediately; grandpa will attend to him, and it will be 
very jolly to see Meg in her own little house. WV11 have 
capital times after she is gone, for I shall be through college 
before long, and then we '11 go abroad, or some nice trip or 
other. Would n't that console you ? " 

" I rather think it would ; but there 's no knowing what may 
happen in three years," said Jo thoughtfully. 



250 LITTLE WOMEN 

" That 's true. Don't you wish you could take a look forward, 
and see where we shall all be then ? I do," returned Laurie. 

" I think not, for I might see something sad ; and every one 
looks so happy now, I don't believe they could be much 
improved ; " and Jo's eyes went slowly round the room, 
brightening as they looked, for the prospect was a pleasant one. 

Father and mother sat together, quietly re-living the first 
chapter of the romance which for them began some twenty 
years ago. Amy was drawing the lovers, who sat apart in a 
beautiful world of their own, the light of which touched their 
faces with a grace the little artist could not copy. -Beth lay 
on her sofa, talking cheerily with her old friend, who held her 
little hand as if he felt that it possessed the power to lead him 
along the peaceful way she walked. Jo lounged in her favorite 
low seat, with the grave, quiet look which best became her ; and 
Laurie, leaning on the back of her chair, his chin on a level with 
her curly head, smiled with his friendliest aspect, and nodded 
at her in the long glass which reflected them both. 

So grouped, the curtain falls upon Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. 
Whether it ever rises again, depends upon the reception given to 
the first act of the domestic drama called " LITTLE WOMEN." 



PART SECOND. 
CHAPTER XXIV. 

GOSSIP. 

IN order that we may start afresh, and go to Meg's wedding 
with free minds, it will be well to begin with a little gossip 
about the Marches. And here let me premise, that if any of the 
elders think there is too much " levering " in the story, as I fear 
they may (I 'm not afraid the young folks will make that 
objection), I can only say with Mrs. March, "What can you 
expect when I have four gay girls in the house, and a dashing 
young neighbor over the way ? " 

The three years that have passed have brought but few 
changes to the quiet family. The war is over, and Mr. March 
safely at home, busy with his books and the small parish which 
found in him a minister by nature as by grace, a quiet, 
studious man, rich in the wisdom that is better than learning, 
the charity which calls all mankind " brother," the piety that 
blossoms into character, making it august and lovely. 

These attributes, in spite of poverty and the strict integrity 
which shut him out from the more worldly successes, attracted 
to him many admirable persons, as naturally as sweet herbs draw 
bees, and as naturally he gave them the honey into which fifty 
years of hard experience had distilled no bitter drop. Earnest 
young men found the gray-headed scholar as young at heart as 
they ; thoughtful or troubled women instinctively brought their 
doubts and sorrows to him, sure of finding the gentlest 
sympathy, the wisest counsel; sinners told their sins to the 
pure-hearted old man, and were both rebuked and saved ; gifted 
men found a companion in him ; ambitious men caught glimpses 



252 LITTLE WOMEN 

of nobler ambitions than their own; and even worldlings 
confessed that his beliefs were beautiful and true, although 
"they wouldn't pay." 

To outsiders, the five energetic women seemed to rule the 
house, and so they did in many things ; but the quiet scholar, 
sitting among his books, was still the head of the family, the 
household conscience, anchor, and comforter; for to him the 
busy, anxious women always turned in troublous times, finding 
him, in the truest sense of those sacred words, husband and 
father. 

The girls gave their hearts into their mother's keeping, their 
souls into their father's; and to both parents, who lived and 
labored so faithfully for them, they gave a love that grew with 
their growth, and bound them tenderly together by the sweetest 
tie which blesses life and outlives death. 

Mrs. March is as brisk and cheery, though rather grayer, 
than when we saw her last, and just now so absorbed in Meg's 
affairs that the hospitals and homes, still full of wounded 
"boys" and soldiers' widows, decidedly miss the motherly 
missionary's visits. 

John Brooke did his duty manfully for a year, got wounded, 
was sent home, and not allowed to return. He received no 
stars or bars, but he deserved them, for he cheerfully risked 
all he had; and life and love are very precious when both are 
in full bloom. Perfectly resigned to his discharge, he devoted 
himself to getting well, preparing for business, and earning a 
home for Meg. With the good sense and sturdy independence 
that characterized him, he refused Mr. Laurence's more generous 
offers, and accepted the place of book-keeper, feeling better 
satisfied to begin with an honestly-earned salary than by running 
any risks with borrowed money. 

Meg had spent the time in working as well as waiting, 
growing womanly in character, wise in housewifely arts, and 
prettier than ever; for love is a great beautifier. She had her 
girlish ambitions and hopes, and felt some disappointment at 
the humble way in which the new life must begin. Ned Moffat 



LITTLE WOMEN 253 

had just married Sallie Gardiner, and Meg couldn't help 
contrasting their fine house and carriage, many gifts, and 
splendid outfit, with her own, and secretly wishing she could 
have the same. But somehow envy and discontent soon vanished 
when she thought of all the patient love and labor John had put 
into the little home awaiting her; and when they sat together 
in the twilight, talking over their small plans, the future always 
grew so beautiful and bright that she forgot Sallie's splendor, 
and felt herself the richest, happiest girl in Christendom. 

Jo never went back to Aunt March, for the old lady took such 
a fancy to Amy that she bribed her with the offer of drawing 
lessons from one of the best teachers going; and for the sake 
of this advantage, Amy would have served a far harder mistress. 
So she gave her mornings to duty, her afternoons to pleasure, 
and prospered finely. Jo, meantime, devoted herself to literature 
and Beth, who remained delicate long after the fever was a 
thing of the past. Not an invalid exactly, but never again the 
rosy, healthy creature she had been ; yet always hopeful, happy, 
and serene, busy with the quiet duties she loved, every one's 
friend, and an angel in the house, long before those who loved 
her most had learned to know it. 

As long as " The Spread Eagle " paid her a dollar a column 
for her " rubbish," as she called it, Jo felt herself a woman of 
means, and spun her little romances diligently. But great 
plans fermented in her busy brain and ambitious mind, and the 
old tin kitchen in the garret held a slowly increasing pile of 
blotted manuscript, which was one day to place the name of 
March upon the roll of fame, 

Laurie, having dutifully gone to college to please his grand- 
father, was now getting through it in the easiest possible manner 
to please himself. A universal favorite, thanks to money, 
manners, much talent, and the kindest heart that ever got its 
owner into scrapes by trying to get other people out of them, 
he stood in great danger of being spoilt, and probably would 
have been, like many another promising boy, if he had not 
possessed a talisman against evil in the memory of the kind 



254 LITTLE WOMEN 

old man who was bound up in his success, the motherly friend 
who watched over him as if he were her son, and last, but not 
least by any means, the knowledge that four innocent girls 
loved, admired, and believed in him with all their hearts. 

Being only " a glorious human boy," of course he f rollicked 
and flirted, grew dandified, aquatic, sentimental, or gymnastic, 
as college fashions ordained ; hazed and was hazed, talked slang, 
and more than once came perilously near suspension and 
expulsion. But as high spirits and the love of fun were the 
causes of these pranks, he always managed to save himself 
by frank confession, honorable atonement, or the irresistible 
power of persuasion which he possessed in perfection. In fact, 
he rather prided himself on his narrow escapes, and liked to 
thrill the girls with graphic accounts of his triumphs over 
wrathful tutors, dignified professors, and vanquished enemies. 
The " men of my class " were heroes in the eyes of the girls, 
who never wearied of the exploits of " our fellows," and were 
frequently allowed to bask in the smiles of these great creatures, 
when Laurie brought them home with him. 

Amy especially enjoyed this high honor, and became quite a 
belle among them ; for her ladyship early felt and learned to use 
the gift of fascination with which she was endowed. Meg was 
too much absorbed in her private and particular John to care 
for any other lords of creation, and Beth too shy to do more 
than peep at them, and wonder how Amy dared to order them 
about so; but Jo felt quite in her element, and found it very 
difficult to refrain from imitating the gentlemanly attitudes, 
phrases, and feats, which seemed more natural to her than the 
decorums prescribed for young ladies. They all liked Jo 
immensely, but never fell in love with her, though very few 
escaped without paying the tribute of a sentimental sigh or two 
at Amy's shrine. And speaking of sentiment brings us very 
naturally to the " Dove-cote." 

That was the name of the little brown house which Mr. 
Brooke had prepared for Meg's first home. Laurie had 
christened it, saying it was highly appropriate to the gentle 



LITTLE WOMEN 255 

lovers, who " went on together like a pair of turtle-doves, with 
first a bill and then a coo." It was a tiny house, with a little 
garden behind, and a lawn about as big as a pocket-handkerchief 
in front. Here Meg meant to have a fountain, shrubbery, and 
a profusion of lovely flowers; though just as present, the 
fountain was represented by a weather-beaten urn, very like a 
dilapidated slop-bowl ; the shrubbery consisted of several young 
larches, undecided whether to live or die ; and the profusion of 
flowers was merely hinted by regiments of sticks, to show where 
seeds were planted. But inside, it was altogether charming, and 
the happy bride saw no fault from garret to cellar. To be sure, 
the hall was so narrow, it was fortunate that they had no piano, 
for one never could have been got in whole; the dining-room 
was so small that six people were a tight fit; and the kitchen 
stairs seemed built for the express purpose of precipitating both 
servants and china pell-mell into the coal-bin. But once get 
used to these slight blemishes, and nothing could be more 
complete, for good sense and good taste had presided over the 
furnishings, and the result was highly satisfactory. There were 
no marble-topped tables, long mirrors, or lace curtains in the 
'iittle parlor, but simple furniture, plenty of books, a fine picture 
or two, a stand of flowers in the bay-window, and, scattered all 
about, the pretty gifts which came from friendly hands, and 
were the fairer for the loving messages they brought. 

I don't think the Parian Psyche Laurie gave lost any of its 
beauty because John put up the bracket it stood upon ; that any 
upholsterer could have draped the plain muslin curtains more 
gracefully than Amy's artistic hand ; or that any store-room was 
ever better provided with good wishes, merry words, and happy 
hopes, than that in which Joe and her mother put away Meg's 
few boxes, barrels, and bundles ; and I am morally certain that 
the spandy-new kitchen never could have looked so cosey and 
neat if Hannah had not arranged every pot and pan a dozen 
times over, and laid the fire all ready for lighting, the minute 
"" Mis. Brooke came home." I also doubt if any young matron 
ever began life with so rich a supply of dusters, holders, and 



256 LITTLE WOMEN 

piece-bags; for Beth made enough to last till the silver wedding 
came round, and invented three different kinds of dishcloths for 
the express service of the bridal china. 

People who hire all these things done for them never know 
what they lose ; for the homeliest tasks get beautified if loving 
hands do them, and Meg found so many proofs of this, that 
everything in her small nest, from the kitchen roller to the silver 
vase on her parlor table, was eloquent of home love and tender 
forethought. 

What happy times they had planning together, what solemn 
shopping excursions ; what funny mistakes they made, and what 
shouts of laughter arose over Laurie's ridiculous bargains. In 
his love of jokes, this young gentleman, though nearly through 
college, was as much of a boy as ever. His last whim had been 
to bring with him, on his weekly visits, some new, useful, and 
ingenious article for the young housekeeper. Now a bag of 
remarkable clothes-pins; next, a wonderful nutmeg-grater, 
which fell to pieces at the first trial ; a knife-cleaner that spoilt 
all the knives ; or a sweeper that picked the nap neatly off the 
carpet, and left the dirt; labor-saving soap that took the skin 
off one's hands ; infallible cements which stuck firmly to nothing 
but the fingers of the deluded buyer ; and every kind of tin- ware, 
from a toy savings-bank for odd pennies, to a wonderful boiler 
which would wash articles in its own steam, with every prospect 
of exploding in the process. 

In vain Meg begged him to stop. John laughed at him, and 
Jo called him " Mr. Toodles." He was possessed with a mania 
for patronizing Yankee ingenuity, and seeing his friends fitly 
furnished forth. So each week beheld some fresh absurdity. 

Everything was done at last, even to Amy's arranging 
different colored soaps to match the different colored rooms, 
and Beth's setting the table for the first meal. 

" Are you satisfied ? Does it seem like home, and do you feel 
as if you should be happy here? " asked Mrs. March, as she and 
her daughter went through the new kingdom, arm-in-arm ; for 
just then they seemed to cling together more tenderly than ever. 



LITTLE WOMEN 257 

' "Yes. mother, perfectly satisfied, thanks to you all, and so 
happy that I can't talk about it," answered Meg, with a look that 
was better than words. 

" If she only had a servant or two it would be all right," said 
Amy, coming out of the parlor, where she had been trying to 
decide whether the bronze Mercury looked best on the whatnot 
or the mantle-piece. 

" Mother and I have talked it over, and I have made up my 
mind to try her way first. There will be so little to do, that, 
with Lotty to run my errands and help me here and there, I 
shall only have enough work to keep me from getting lazy or 
homesick," answered Meg tranquilly. 

"Sallie Moffat has four," began Amy. 

"-If Meg had four the house would n't hold them, and master 
and missis would have to camp in the garden," broke in Jo, who, 
enveloped in a big blue pinafore, was giving the last polish to 
the door-handles. 

"Sallie isn't a poor man's wife, and many maids are in 
keeping with her fine establishment. Meg and John begin 
humbly, but I have a feeling that there will be quite as much 
happiness in the little house as in the big one. It's a great 
mistake for young girls like Meg to leave themselves nothing 
to do but dress, give orders, and gossip. When I was first 
married, I used to long for my new clothes to wear out or get 
torn, so that I might have the pleasure of mending them; for 
I got heartily sick of doing fancy work and tending my pocket 
handkerchief." 

" Why did n't you go into the kitchen and make messes, as 
Sallie says she does, to amuse herself, though they never turn 
out well, and the servants laugh at her," said Meg. 

"I did, after a while; not to 'mess,' but to learn of Hannah 
how things should be done, that my servants need not laugh at 
*ne. It was play then ; but there came a time when I was truly 
grateful that I not only possessed the will but the power to 
cook wholesome food for my little girls, and help myself when 
I could no longer afford to hire help. You begin at the other 



258 LITTLE WOMEN 

end, Meg, dear; but the lessons you learn now will be of use 
to you by and by, when John is a richer man, for the mistress 
of a house, however splendid, should know how work ought to 
be done, if she wishes to be well and honestly served." 

" Yes, mother, I 'm sure of that," said Meg, listening 
respectfully to the little lecture; for the best of women will 
hold forth upon the all-absorbing subject of housekeeping. 
" Do you know I like this room most of all in my baby-house/' 
added Meg, a minute after, as they went upstairs, and she 
looked into her well-stored linen-closet. 

Beth was there, laying the snowy piles smoothly on the 
shelves, and exulting over the goodly array. All three laughed 
as Meg spoke ; for that linen-closet was a joke. You see, after 
having said that if Meg married " that Brooke " she should n't 
have a cent of her money, Aunt March was rather in a 
quandary, when time had appeased her wrath and made her 
repent her vow. She never broke her word, and was much 
exercised in her mind how to get round it, and at last devised 
a plan whereby she could satisfy herself. Mrs. Carrol, 
Florence's mamma, was ordered to buy, have made, and marked, 
a generous supply of house and table linen, and send it as her 
present, all of which was faithfully done ; but the secret leaked 
out, and was greatly enjoyed by the family; for Aunt March 
tried to look utterly unconscious, and insisted that she could 
give nothing but the old-fashioned pearls long promised to the 
first bride. 

" That 's a housewifely taste which I am glad to see. I had a 
young friend who set up housekeeping with six sheets, but she 
had finger bowls for company, and that satisfied her," said Mrs. 
March, patting the damask tablecloths, with a truly feminine 
appreciation of their fineness. 

" I have n't a single finger-bowl, but this is a ' set out ' that 
will last me all my days, Hannah says ; " and Meg looked quite 
contented, as well she might. 

" Toodles is coming," cried Jo from below ; and they all went 



LITTLE WOMEN 25$ 

down to meet Laurie, whose weekly visit was an important event 
in their quiet lives. 

A tall, broad-shouldered young fellow, with a cropped head, 
a felt-basin of a hat, and a fly-away coat, came tramping down 
the road at a great pace, walked over the low fence without 
stopping to open the gate, straight up to Mrs. March, with both 
hands out, and a hearty 

" Here I am, mother ! Yes, it 's all right." 

The last words were in answer to the look the elder lady gave 
him; a kindly questioning look, which the handsome eyes met 
so frankly that the little ceremony closed, as usual, with a 
motherly kiss. 

" For Mrs. John Brooke, with the maker's congratulations 
and compliments. Bless you, Beth ! What a refreshing spectacle 
you are, Jo. Amy, you are getting altogether too handsome for 
a single lady." 

As Laurie spoke, he delivered a brown paper parcel to Meg, 
pulled Beth's hair-ribbon, stared at Jo's big pinafore, and fell 
into an attitude of mock rapture before Amy, then shook hands 
all round, and every one began to talk. 

" Where is John ? " asked Meg anxiously. 

" Stopped to get the license for to-morrow, ma'am." 

" Which side won the last match, Teddy? " inquired Jo, who 
persisted in feeling an interest in manly sports despite her 
nineteen years. 

" Ours, of course. Wish you 'd been there to see." 

" How is the lovely Miss Randal ? " asked Amy, with a 
significant smile. 

" More cruel than ever ; don't you see how I 'm pining 
away?" and Laurie gave his broad chest a sounding slap and 
heaved a melodramatic sigh. 

"What's the last joke? Undo the bundle and see, Meg," 
said Beth, eyeing the knobby parcel with curiosity. 

" It 's a useful thing to have in the house in case of fire or 
thieves," observed Laurie, as a watchman's rattle appeared, 
amid the laughter of the gi 



260 LITTLE WOMEN 

"Any time when John is away, and you get frightened, Mrs. 
Meg, just swing that out of the front window, and it will rouse 
the neighborhood in a jiffy. Nice thing, is n't it? " and Laurie 
gave them a sample of its powers that made them cover up 
their ears. 

" There 's gratitude for you ! and speaking of gratitude 
reminds me to mention that you may thank Hannah for saving 
your wedding-cake from destruction. I saw it going into your 
house as I came by, and if she hadn't defended it manfully, 
I'd have had a pick at it, for it looked like a remarkably 
plummy one." 

" I wonder if you will ever grow up, Laurie," said Meg, in 
a matronly tone. 

" I 'm doing my best, ma'am, but can't get much higher, I *m 
afraid, as six feet is about all men can do in these degenerate 
days," responded the young gentleman, whose head was about 
level with the little chandelier. 

" I suppose it would be profanation to eat anything in this 
spick and span new bower, so, as I 'm tremendously hungry, I 
propose an adjournment," he added presently. 

" Mother and I are going to wait for John. There are some 
last things to settle," said Meg, bustling away. 

" Beth and I are going over to Kitty Bryant's to get more 
flowers for to-morrow," added Amy, tying a picturesque hat 
over her picturesque curls, and enjoying the effect as much as 
anybody. 

" Come, Jo, don't desert a fellow. I 'm in such a state of 
exhaustion I can't get home without help. Don't take off your 
apron, whatever you do ; it 's peculiarly becoming," said Laurie, 
as Jo bestowed his especial aversion in her capacious pocket, and 
offered him her arm to support his feeble steps. 

"Now, Teddy, I want to talk seriously to you about 
to-morrow," began Jo, as they strolled away together. " You 
must promise to behave well, and not cut up any pranks, and 
spoil our plans." 

"Not a prank." 



LITTLE WOMEN 261 

" And don't say funny things when we ought to be sober." 

" I never do ; you are the one for that." 

" And I implore you not to look at me during the ceremony ; 
I shall certainly laugh if you do." 

" You won't see me ; you '11 be crying so hard that the thick 
fog round you will obscure the prospect." 

" I never cry unless for some great affliction." 

" Such as fellows going to college, hey ? " cut in Laurie, with 
a suggestive laugh. 

" Don't be a peacock. I only moaned a trifle to keep the girls 
company." 

" Exactly. I say, Jo, how is grandpa this week ; pretty 
amiable?" 

" Very ; why, have you got into a scrape, and want to know 
how he '11 take it ? " asked Jo rather sharply. 

" Now, Jo, do you think I 'd look your mother in the face, 
and say ' All right,' if it was n't ? " and Laurie stopped short, 
with an injured air. 

" No, I don't." 

" Then don't go and be suspicious ; I only want some money," 
said Laurie, walking on again, appeased by her hearty tone. 

" You spend a great deal, Teddy." 

" Bless you, 7 don't spend it ; it spends itself, somehow, and 
is gone before I know it." 

" You are so generous and kind-hearted that you let people 
borrow, and can't say ' No ' to any one. We heard about 
Henshaw, and all you did for him. If you always spent money 
in that way, no one would blame you," said Jo warmly. 

" Oh, he made a mountain out of a mole-hill. You would n't 
have me let that fine fellow work himself to death, just for the 
want of a little help, when he is worth a dozen of us lazy chaps, 
would you ? " 

"Of course not; but I don't see the use of your having 
seventeen waistcoats, endless neckties, and a new hat every time 
you come home. I thought you 'd got over the dandy period ; 
but every now and then it breaks out in a new spot. Just now 



262 LITTLE WOMEN 

it 's the fashion to be hideous, to make your head look like 
a scrubbing-brush, wear a straight- jacket, orange gloves, and 
clumping, square-toed boots. If it was cheap ugliness, I 'd say 
nothing ; but it costs as much as the other, and I don't get any 
satisfaction out of it." 

Laurie threw back his head, and laughed so heartily at this 
attack, that the felt-basin fell off, and Jo walked on it, which 
insult only afforded him an opportunity for expatiating on the 
advantages of a rough-and-ready costume, as he folded up the 
maltreated hat, and stuffed it into his pocket. 

" Don't lecture any more, there 's a good soul ! I have 
enough all through the week, and like to enjoy myself when I 
come home. I '11 get myself up regardless of expense, to-mor- 
row, and be a satisfaction to my friends." 

" I '11 leave you in peace if you '11 only let your hair grow. 
I 'm not aristocratic, but I do object to being seen with a person 
who looks like a young prize-fighter," observed Jo severely. 

" This unassuming style promotes study ; that 's why we adopt 
it," returned Laurie, who certainly could not be accused of 
vanity, having voluntarily sacrificed a handsome curly crop to 
the demand for quarter-of-an-inch-long stubble. 

" By the way, Jo, I think that little Parker is really getting 
desperate about Amy. He talks of her constantly, writes poetry, 
and moons about in a most suspicious manner. He 'd better nip 
his little passion in the bud, hadn't he?" added Laurie, in a 
confidential, elder-brotherly tone, after a minute's silence. 

"Of course he had ; we don't want any more marrying in this 
family for years to come. Mercy on us, what are the children 
thinking of ? " and Jo looked as much scandalized as if Amy 
and little Parker were not yet in their teens. 

" It 's a fast age, and I don't know what we are coming to, 
ma'am. You are a mere infant, but you '11 go next, Jo, and we '11 
be left lamenting," said Laurie, shaking his head over the 
degeneracy of the times. 

" Don't be alarmed ; I 'm not one of the agreeable sort 



LITTLE WOMEN 263 

Nobody will want me, and it 's a mercy, for there should always 
be one old maid in a family." 

" You won't give any one a chance," said Laurie, with a 
sidelong glance, and a little more color than before in his 
sunburnt face. " You won't show the soft side of your 
character, and if a fellow gets a peep at it by accident, and 
can't help showing that he likes it, you treat him as Mrs. 
Gummidge did her sweetheart, throw cold water over him, 
and get so thorny no one dares touch or look at you." 

" I don't like that sort of thing ; I 'm too busy to be worried 
with nonsense, and I think it 's dreadful to break up families so. 
Now don't say any more about it; Meg's wedding has turned 
all our heads, and we talk of nothing but lovers and such 
absurdities. I don't wish to get cross, so let 's change the 
subject; " and Jo looked quite ready to fling cold water on the 
slightest provocation. 

Whatever his feelings might have been, Laurie found a vent 
for them in a long low whistle, and the fearful prediction, as 
they parted at the gate, " Mark my words, Jo, you '11 go next." 



CHAPTER XXV. 

THE FIRST WEDDING. 

THE June roses over the porch were awake bright and early 
on that morning, rejoicing with all their hearts in the cloudless 
sunshine, like friendly little neighbors, as they were. Quite 
flushed with excitement were their ruddy faces, as they swung 
in the wind, whispering to one another what they had seen; 
for some peeped in at the dining-room windows, where the feast 
was spread, some climbed up to nod and smile at the sisters 
as they dressed the bride, others waved a welcome to those who 
came and went on various errands in garden, porch, and hall, 
and all, from the rosiest full-blown flower to the palest baby- 



264 LITTLE WOMEN 

bud, offered their tribute of beauty and fragrance to the gentle 
mistress who had loved and tended them so long. 

Meg looked very like a rose herself ; for all that was best and 
sweetest in heart and soul seemed to bloom into her face that 
day, making it fair and tender, with a charm more beautiful 
than beauty. Neither silk, lace, nor orange-flowers would she 
have. " I don't want to look strange or fixed up to-day," she 
said. " I don't want a fashionable wedding, but only those about 
me whom I love, and to them I wish to look and be my familiar 
self." 

So she made her wedding gown herself, sewing into it the 
tender hopes and innocent romances of a girlish heart. Her 
sisters braided up her pretty hair, and the only ornaments 
she wore were the lilies of the valley, which " her John " liked 
best of all the flowers that grew. 

" You do look just like our own dear Meg, only so very sweet 
and lovely that I should hug you if it would n't crumple your 
dress," cried Amy, surveying her with delight, when all was 
done. 

" Then I am satisfied. But please hug and kiss me, every one, 
and don't mind my dress ; I want a great many crumples of this 
sort put into it to-day ; " and Meg opened her arms to her sisters, 
who clung about her with April faces for a minute, feeling that 
the new love had not changed the old. 

" Now I 'm going to tie John's cravat for him, and then to 
stay a few minutes with father quietly in the study; " and Meg 
ran down to perform these little ceremonies, and then to follow 
her mother wherever she went, conscious that, in spite of the 
smiles on the motherly face, there was a secret sorrow hid in 
the motherly heart at the flight of the first bird from the nest. 

As the younger girls stand together, giving the last touches 
to their simple toilet, it may be a good time to tell of a few 
changes which three years have wrought in their appearance; 
for all are looking their best just now. 

Jo's angles are much softened ; she has learned to carry 
herself with ease, if not grace. The curly crop has lengthened 



LITTLE WOMEN 265 

into a thick coil, more becoming to the small head atop of the 
tall figure. There is a fresh color in her brown cheeks, a soft 
shine in her eyes, and only gentle words fall from her sharp 
tongue to-day. 

Beth has grown slender, pale, and more quiet than ever; the 
beautiful, kind eyes are larger, and in them lies an expression 
that saddens one, although it is not sad itself. It is the shadow 
of pain which touches the young face with such pathetic 
patience; but Beth seldom complains, and always speaks 
hopefully of " being better soon." 

Amy is with truth considered "the flower of the family;" 
for at sixteen she has the air and bearing of a full-grown 
woman not beautiful, but possessed of that indescribable 
charm called grace. One saw it in the lines of her figure, the 
make and motion of her hands, the flow of her dress, the droop 
of her hair, unconscious, yet harmonious, and as attractive 
to many as beauty itself. Amy's nose still afflicted her, for it 
never would grow Grecian ; so did her mouth, being too wide, 
and having a decided chin. These offending features gave 
character to her whole face, but she never could see it, and 
consoled herself with her wonderfully fair complexion, keen 
blue eyes, and curls, more golden and abundant than ever. 

All three wore suits of thin silver gray (their best gowns for 
the summer), with blush-roses in hair and bosom; and all three 
looked just what they were, fresh-faced, happy-hearted girls, 
pausing a moment in their busy lives to read with wistful eyes 
the sweetest chapter in the romance of womanhood. 

There were to be no ceremonious performances, everything 
was to be as natural and homelike as possible; so when Aunt 
March arrived, she was scandalized to see the bride come 
running to welcome and lead her in, to find the bridegroom 
fastening up a garland that had fallen down, and to catch a 
glimpse of the paternal minister marching upstairs with a grave 
countenance, and a wine-bottle under each arm. 

" Upon my word, here 's a state of things ! " cried the old 
lady, taking the seat of honor prepared for her, and settling the 



266 LITTLE WOMEN 

folds of her lavender moire with a great rustle. " You ought n't 
to be seen till the last minute, child." 

" I 'm not a show, aunty, and no one is coming to stare at me, 
to criticise my dress, or count the cost of my luncheon. I 'm too 
happy to care what any one says or thinks, and I 'm going to 
have my little wedding just as I like it. John, dear, here 's 
your hammer ; " and away went Meg to help " that man " in 
his highly improper employment. 

Mr. Brooke did n't even say " Thank you," but as he stooped 
for the unromantic tool, he kissed his little bride behind the 
folding-door, with a look that made Aunt March whisk out her 
pocket-handkerchief, with a sudden dew in her sharp old eyes. 

A crash, a cry, and a laugh from Laurie, accompanied by the 
indecorous exclamation, " Jupiter Ammon ! Jo 's upset the cake 
again ! " caused a momentary flurry, which was hardly over 
when a flock of cousins arrived, and " the party came in/' as 
Beth used to say when a child. 

" Don't let that young giant come near me ; he worries me 
worse than mosquitoes," whispered the old lady to Amy, as the 
rooms filled, and Laurie's black head towered above the rest. 

" He has promised to be very good to-day, and he can be 
perfectly elegant if he likes," returned Amy, gliding away to 
warn Hercules to beware of the dragon, which warning caused 
him to haunt the old lady with a devotion that nearly 
distracted her. 

There was no bridal procession, but a sudden silence fell upon 
the room as Mr. March and the young pair took their places 
under the green arch. Mother and sisters gathered close, as if 
loath to give Meg up ; the fatherly voice broke more than once, 
which only seemed to make the service more beautiful and 
solemn; the bridegroom's hand trembled visibly, and no one 
heard his replies ; but Meg looked straight up in her husband's 
eyes, and said, " I will ! " with such tender trust in her own face 
and voice that her mother's heart rejoiced, and Aunt March 
sniffed audibly. 

Jo did not cry, though she was very near it once, and was 



LITTLE WOMEN 267 

only saved from a demonstration by the consciousness that 
Laurie was staring fixedly at her, with a comical mixture of 
merriment and emotion in his wicked black eyes. Beth kept 
her face hidden on her mother's shoulder, but Amy stood like 
a graceful statue, with a most becoming ray of sunshine touch- 
ing her white forehead and the flower in her hair. 

It was n't at all the thing, I'm afraid, but the minute she was 
fairly married, Meg cried, " The first kiss for Marmee ! " and, 
turning, gave it with her heart on her lips. During the next? 
fifteen minutes she looked more like a rose than ever, for every 
one availed themselves of their privileges to the fullest extent, 
from Mr. Laurence to old Hannah, who, adorned with a head- 
dress fearfully and wonderfully made, fell upon her in the hall, 
crying, with a sob and a chuckle, " Bless you, deary, a hundred 
times! The cake ain't hurt a mite, and everything looks 
lovely." 

Everybody cleared up after that, and said something brilliant, 
or tried to, which did just as well, for laughter is ready when 
hearts are light. There was no display of gifts, for they were 
already in the little house, nor was there an elaborate breakfast, 
but a plentiful lunch of cake and fruit, dressed with flowers. 
Mr. Laurence and Aunt March shrugged and smiled at one 
another when water, lemonade, and coffee were found to be the 
only sorts of nectar which the three Hebes carried round. No 
one said anything, however, till Laurie, who insisted on serving 
the bride, appeared before her, with a loaded salver in his hand 
and a puzzled expression on his face. 

" Has Jo smashed all the bottles by accident? " he whispered, 
" or am I merely laboring under a delusion that I saw some 
lying about loose this morning? " 

" No ; your grandfather kindly offered us his best, and Aunt 
March actually sent some, but father put away a little for Beth, 
and despatched the rest to the Soldiers' Home. You know he 
thinks that wine should be used only in illness, and mother 
says that neither she nor her daughters will ever offer it to any 
young man under her roof." 



268 LITTLE WOMEN 

Meg spoke seriously, and expected to see Laurie frown or 
.augh ; but he did neither, for after a quick look at her, he said, 
in his impetuous way, " I like that! for I've seen enough harm 
done to wish other women would think as you do." 

" You are not made wise by experience, I hope ? " and there 
was an anxious accent in Meg's voice. 

"No; I give you my word for it. Don't think too well of 
me, either ; this is not one of my temptations. Being brought 
up where wine is as common as water, and almost as harmless, 
I don't care for it; but when a pretty girl offers it, one does n't 
like to refuse, you see." 

" But you will, for the sake of others, if not for your own. 
Come, Laurie, promise, and give me one more reason to call 
this the happiest day of my life." 

A demand so sudden and so serious made the young man 
hesitate a moment, for ridicule is often harder to bear than 
self-denial. Meg knew that if he gave the promise he would 
keep it at all costs; and, feeling her power, used it as a woman 
may for her friend's good. She did not speak, but she looked 
up at him with a face made very eloquent by happiness, and a 
smile which said, "No one can refuse me anything to-day." 
Laurie certainly could not ; and, with an answering smile, he 
gave her his hand, saying heartily, " I promise, Mrs. Brooke ! " 

" I thank you, very, very much." 

"And I drink 'long life to your resolution/ Teddy," cried 
Jo, baptizing him with a splash of lemonade, as she waved her 
glass, and beamed approvingly upon him. 

So the toast was drunk, the pledge made, and loyally kept, 
in spite of many temptations ; for, with instinctive wisdom, the 
girls had seized a happy moment to do their friend a service, 
for which he thanked them all his life. 

After lunch, people strolled about, by twos and threes, 
through house and garden, enjoying the sunshine without and 
within. Meg and John happened to be standing together in 
the middle of the grass-plot, when Laurie was seized with an 



LITTLE WOMEN 269 

inspiration which put the finishing touch to this unfashionable 
wedding. 

" All the married people take hands and dance round the 
new-made husband and wife, as the Germans do, while we 
bachelors and spinsters prance in couples outside ! " cried 
Laurie, promenading down the path with Amy, with such in- 
fectious spirit and skill that every one else followed their ex- 
ample without a murmur. Mr. and Mrs. March, Aunt and 
Uncle Carrol, began it; others rapidly joined in; even Sallie 
Moffat, after a moment's hesitation, threw her train over her 
arm, and whisked Ned into the ring. But the crowning joke 
was Mr. Laurence and Aunt March; for when the stately old 
gentleman chasseed solemnly up to the old lady, she just tucked 
her cane under her arm, and hopped briskly away to join hands 
with the rest, and dance about the bridal pair, while the young 
folks pervaded the garden, like butterflies on a midsummer day. 

Want of breath brought the impromptu ball to a close, and 
then people began to go. 

" I wish you well, my dear, I heartily wish you well ; but I 
think you '11 be sorry for it," said Aunt March to Meg, adding 
to the bridegroom, as he led her to the carriage, " You 've got 
a treasure, young man, see that you deserve it." 

" That is the prettiest wedding I Ve been to for an age, Ned, 
and I don't see why, for there was n't a bit of style about it," 
observed Mrs. Moffat to her husband, as they drove away. 

" Laurie, my lad, if you ever want to indulge in this sort of 
thing, get one of those little girls to help you, and I shall be 
perfectly satisfied," said Mr. Laurence, settling himself in his 
easy-chair to rest, after the excitement of the morning. v 

" I '11 do my best to gratify you, sir," was Laurie's unusually 
dutiful reply, as he carefully unpinned the posy Jo had put in 
his button-hole. 

The little house was not far away, and the only bridal jour- 
ney Meg had was the quiet walk with John, from the old home 
to the new. When she came down, looking like a pretty 
Quakeress in her dove-colored suit and straw bonnet tied with 



270 LITTLE WOMEN 

white, they all gathered about her to say " good-by," as tenderly 
as if she had been going to make the grand tour. 

"Don't feel that I am separated from you, Marmee dear 
or that I love you any the less for loving John so much," she 
said, clinging to her mother, with full eyes, for a moment. " 1 
shall come every day, father, and expect to keep my old place 
in all your hearts, though I am married. Beth is going to be 
with me a great deal, and the other girls will drop in now and 
then to laugh at my housekeeping struggles. Thank you all for 
my happy wedding-day. Good-by, good-by ! " 

They stood watching her, with faces full of love and hope 
and tender pride, as she walked away, leaning on her husband's 
arm, with her hands full of flowers, and the June sunshine 
brightening her happy face, and so Meg's married life began. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

ARTISTIC ATTEMPTS. 

IT takes people a long time to learn the difference between 
talent and genius, especially ambitious young men and women. 
Amy was learning this distinction through much tribulation; 
for, mistaking enthusiasm for inspiration, she attempted every 
branch of art with youthful audacity. For a long time there 
was a lull in the " mud-pie " business, and she devoted herself 
to the finest pen-and-ink drawing, in which she showed such 
taste and skill that her graceful handiwork proved both pleas- 
ant and profitable. But overstrained eyes soon caused pen and 
ink to be laid aside for a bold attempt at poker-sketching. 

While this attack lasted, the family lived in constant fear of 
a conflagration; for the odor of burning wood pervaded the 
house at all hours; smoke issued from attic and shed with 
alarming frequency, red-hot pokers lay about promiscuously, 
and Hannah never went to bed without a pail of water and 
the dinner-bell at her door, in case of fire. Raphael's face was 



LITTLE WOMEN 271 

found boldly executed on the under side of the moulding-board, 
and Bacchus on the head of a beer-barrel; a chanting cherub 
adorned the cover of the sugar-bucket, and attempts to portray 
Romeo and Juliet supplied kindlings for some time. 

From fire to oil was a natural transition for burnt fingers, 
and Amy fell to painting with undiminished ardor. An artist 
friend fitted her out with his cast-off palettes, brushes, and 
colors; and she daubed away, producing pastoral and marine 
views such as were never seen on land or sea. Her monstrosi- 
ties in the way of cattle would have taken prizes at an agricul- 
tural fair ; and the perilous pitching of her vessels would have 
produced sea-sickness in the most nautical observer, if the 
utter disregard to all known rules of shipbuilding and rigging 
had not convulsed him with laughter at the first glance. 
Swarthy boys and dark-eyed Madonnas, staring at you from 
one corner of the studio, suggested Murillo; oily-brown 
shadows of faces, with a lurid streak in the wrong place, meant 
Rembrandt ; buxom ladies and dropsical infants, Rubens ; and 
Turner appeared in tempests of blue thunder, orange lightning, 
brown rain, and purple clouds, with a tomato-colored splash 
in the middle, which might be the sun or a buoy, a sailor's shirt 
or a king's robe, as the spectator pleased. 

Charcoal portraits came next ; and the entire family hung in 
a row, looking as wild and crocky as if just evoked from a coal- 
bin. Softened into crayon sketches, they did better; for the 
likenesses were good, and Amy's hair, Jo's nose, Meg's mouth, 
and Laurie's eyes were pronounced " wonderfully fine." A 
return to clay and plaster followed, and ghostly casts of her 
acquaintances haunted corners of the house, or tumbled off 
closet-shelves on to people's heads. Children were enticed in 
as models, till their incoherent accounts of her mysterious do- 
ings caused Miss Amy to be regarded in the light of a young 
ogress. Her efforts in this line, however, were brought to an 
abrupt close by an untoward accident, which quenched her 
ardor. Other models failing her for a time, she undertook to 
cast her own pretty foot, and the family were one day alarmed 



272 LITTLE WOMEN 

by an unearthly bumping and screaming, and running to the 
rescue, found the young enthusiast hopping wildly about the 
shed, with her foot held fast in a pan-full of plaster, which 
had hardened with unexpected rapidity. With much difficulty 
and some danger she was dug out; for Jo was so overcome 
with laughter while she excavated, that her knife went too far, 
cut the poor foot, and left a lasting memorial of one artistic 
attempt, at least. 

After this Amy subsided, till a mania for sketching from 
nature set her to haunting river, field, and wood, for pic- 
turesque studies, and sighing for ruins to copy. She caught 
endless colds sitting on damp grass to book " a delicious bit," 
composed of a stone, a stump, one mushroom, and a broken 
mullein-stalk, or " a heavenly mass of clouds," that looked like 
a choice display of feather-beds when done. She sacrificed her 
complexion floating on the river in the midsummer sun, to 
study light and shade, and got a wrinkle over her nose, trying 
after " points of sight," or whatever the squint-and-string per- 
formance is called. 

If "genius is eternal patience," as Michael Angelo affirms, 
Amy certainly had some claim to the divine attribute, for she 
persevered in spite of all obstacles, failures, and discourage- 
ments, firmly believing that in time she should do something 
worthy to be called " high art." 

She was learning, doing, and enjoying other things, mean- 
while, for she had resolved to be an attractive and accomplished 
woman, even if she never became a great artist. Here she suc- 
ceeded better; for she was one of those happily created beings 
who please without effort, make friends everywhere, and take 
life so gracefully and easily that less fortunate souls are 
tempted to believe that such are born under a lucky star. 
Everybody liked her, for among her good gifts was tact. She 
had an instinctive sense of what was pleasing and proper, 
always said the right thing to the right person, did just what 
suited the time and place, and was so self-possessed that her 



LITTLE WOMEN 273 

sisters used to say, "If Amy went to court without any re- 
hearsal beforehand, she 'd know exactly what to do." 

One of her weaknesses was a desire to move in " our best 
society/' without being quite sure what the best really was. 
Money, position, fashionable accomplishments, and elegant 
manners were most desirable things in her eyes, and she liked 
to associate with those who possessed them, often mistaking the 
false for the true, and admiring what was not admirable, 
Never forgetting that by birth she was a gentlewoman, she 
cultivated her aristocratic tastes and feelings, so that when the 
opportunity came she might be ready to take the place from 
which poverty now excluded her. 

" My lady," as her friends called her, sincerely desired to be 
a genuine lady, and was so at heart, but had yet to learn that 
money cannot buy refinement of nature, that rank does not 
always confer nobility, and that true breeding makes itself felt 
in spite of external drawbacks. 

" I want to ask a favor of you, mamma," Amy said, coming 
in, with an important air, one day. 

" Well, little girl, what is it ? " replied her mother, in whose 
eyes the stately young lady still remained " the baby." 

" Our drawing class breaks up next week, and before the 
girls separate for the summer, I want to ask them out here for 
a day. They are wild to see the river, sketch the broken bridge, 
and copy some of the things they admire in my book. They 
have been very kind to me in many ways, and I am grateful; 
for they are all rich, and know I am poor, yet they never made* 
any difference." 

" Why should they ? " and Mrs. March put the question with 
what the girls called her " Maria Theresa air." 

" You know as well as I that it does make a difference with 
nearly every one, so don't ruffle up, like a dear, motherly hen, 
when your chickens get pecked by smarter birds; the ugly 
duckling turned out a swan, you know ; " and Amy smiled 
without bitterness, for she possessed a happy temper and hope- 
ful spirit. 



274 LITTLE WOMEN 

Mrs. March laughed, and smoothed down her maternal pride 
as she asked, 

" Well, my swan, what is your plan ? " 

" I should like to ask the girls out to lunch next week, to 
take them a drive to the places they want to see, a row on the 
river, perhaps, and make a little artistic fete for them." 

" That looks feasible. What do you want for lunch ? Cake, 
sandwiches, fruit, and coffee will be all that is necessary, I 
suppose ? " 

" Oh dear, no ! we must have cold tongue and chicken, 
French chocolate and ice-cream, besides. The girls are used 
to such things, and I want my lunch to be proper and elegant, 
though I do work for my living." 

" How many young ladies are there ? " asked her mother, 
beginning to look sober. 

" Twelve or fourteen in the class, but I dare say they won't 
all come." 

" Bless me, child, you will have to charter an omnibus to 
carry them about." 

"Why, mother, how can you think of such a thing? Not 
more than six or eight will probably come, so I shall hire a 
beach-wagon, and borrow Mr. Laurence's cherry-bounce." 
(Hannah's pronunciation of char-a-banc.) 

" All this will be expensive, Amy." 

" Not very ; I 've calculated the cost, and I '11 pay for it 
myself." 

" Don't you think, dear, that as these girls are used to such 
things, and the best we can do will be nothing new, that some 
simpler plan would be pleasa-nter to them, as a change, if noth- 
ing more, and much better for us than buying or borrowing 
what we don't need, and attempting a style not in keeping with 
our circumstances ? " 

" If I can't have it as I like, I don't care to have it at all. I 
know that I can carry it out perfectly well, if you and the girls 
will help a little ; and I don't see why I can't if I 'm willing to 



LITTLE WOMEN 275 

pay for it," said Amy, with the decision which opposition was 
apt to change into obstinacy. 

Mrs. March knew that experience was an excellent teacher, 
and when it was possible she left her children to learn alone 
the lessons which she would gladly have made easier, if they 
had not objected to taking advice as much as they did salts 
and senna. 

" Very well, Amy ; if your heart is set upon it, and you see 
your way through without too great an outlay of money, time, 
and temper, I '11 say no more. Talk it over with the girls, and 
whichever way you decide, I '11 do my best to help you." 

" Thanks, mother ; you are always so kind ; " and away went 
Amy to lay her plan before her sisters. 

Meg agreed at once, and promised her aid, gladly offering 
anything she possessed, from her little house itself to her very 
best salt-spoons. But Jo frowned upon the whole project, and 
would have nothing to do with it at first. 

" Why in the world should you spend your money, worry 
your family, and turn the house upside down for a parcel of 
girls who don't care a sixpence for you? I thought you had 
too much pride and sense to truckle to any mortal woman just 
because she wears French boots and rides in a coupe," said Jo, 
who, being called from the tragical climax of her novel, was 
not in the best mood for social enterprises. 

" I don't truckle, and I hate being patronized as much as 
you do ! " returned Amy indignantly, for the two still jangled 
when such questions arose. " The girls do care for me, and 
I for them, and there 's a great deal of kindness and sense and 
talent among them, in spite of what you call fashionable non- 
sense. You don't care to make people like you, to go into good 
society, and cultivate your manners and tastes. I do, and I 
mean to make the most of every chance that comes. You can 
go through the world with your elbows out and your nose in 
the air, and call it independence, if you like. That 's not my 
way."* 

When Amy whetted her tongue and freed her mind she 



276 LITTLE WOMEN 

usually got the best of it, for she seldom failed to have common 
sense on her side, while Jo carried her love of liberty and hate 
of conventionalities to such an unlimited extent that she natu- 
rally found herself worsted in an argument. Amy's definition 
of Jo's idea of independence was such a good hit that both 
burst out laughing, and the discussion took a more amiable 
turn. Much against her will, Jo at length consented to sacri- 
fice a day to Mrs. Grundy, and help her sister through what 
she regarded as " a nonsensical business." 

The invitations were sent, nearly all accepted, and the fol- 
lowing Monday was set apart for the grand event. Hannah 
was out of humor because her week's work was deranged, and 
prophesied that " ef the washin' and ironin' warn't done reg'lar 
nothin' would go well anywheres." This hitch in the main- 
spring of the domestic machinery had a bad effect upon the 
whole concern ; but Amy's motto was " Nil desperandum," and 
having made up her mind what to do, she proceeded to do it 
in spite of all obstacles. To begin with, Hannah's cooking 
didn't turn out well: the chicken was tough, the tongue too 
salt, and the chocolate would n't froth properly. Then the 
cake and ice cost more than Amy expected, so did the wagon ; 
and various other expenses, which seemed trifling at the out- 
set, counted up rather alarmingly afterward. Beth got cold 
and took to her bed, Meg had an unusual number of callers to 
keep her at home, and Jo was in such a divided state of mind 
that her breakages, accidents, and mistakes were uncommonly 
numerous, serious, and trying. 

"If it had n't been for mother I never should have got 
through," as Amy declared afterward, and gratefully remem- 
bered when " the best joke of the season " was entirely for- 
gotten by everybody else. 

If it was not fair on Monday, the young ladies were to come 
on Tuesday, an arrangement which aggravated Jo and Han- 
nah to the last degree. On Monday morning the weather was 
in that undecided state which is more exasperating than a 
steady pour. It drizzled a little, shone a little, blew a little, 



LITTLE WOMEN 277 

and did n't make up its mind till it was too late for any one else 
to make up theirs. Amy was up at dawn, hustling people out 
of their beds and through their breakfasts, that the house might 
be got in order. The parlor struck her as looking uncommonly 
shabby ; but without stopping to sigh for what she had not, she 
skilfully made the best of what she had, arranging chairs over 
the worn places in the carpet, covering stains on the walls with 
pictures framed in ivy, and filling up empty corners with home- 
made statuary, which gave an artistic air to the room, as did the 
lovely vases of flowers Jo scattered about. 

The lunch looked charmingly ; and as she surveyed it, she sin- 
cerely hoped it would taste well, and that the borrowed glass, 
china, and silver would get safely home again. The carriages 
were promised, Meg and mother were all ready to do the 
honors, Beth was able to help Hannah behind the scenes, Jo 
had engaged to be as lively and amiable as an absent mind, an, 
aching head, and a very decided disapproval of everybody and 
everything would allow, and, as she wearily dressed, Amy 
cheered herself with anticipations of the happy moment, when, 
lunch safely over, she should drive away with her friends for 
an afternoon of artistic delights ; for the " cherry-bounce " and 
the broken bridge were her strong points. 

Then came two hours of suspense, during which she vibrated 
from parlor to porch, while public opinion varied like the 
weathercock. A smart shower at eleven had evidently quenched 
the enthusiasm of the young ladies who were to arrive at 
twelve, for nobody came; and at two the exhausted family sat 
down in a blaze of sunshine to consume the perishable portions 
of the feast, that nothing might be lost. 

" No doubt about the weather to-day ; they will certainly 
come, so we must fly round and be ready for them," said Amy, 
as the sun woke her next morning. She spoke briskly, but in 
her secret soul she wished she had said nothing about Tues-> 
day, for her interest, like her cake, was getting a little stale. 

" I can't get any lobsters, so you will have to do without 



278 LITTLE WOMEN 

salad to-day," said Mr. March, coming in half an hour later, 
with an expression of placid despair." 

" Use the chicken, then ; the toughness won't matter in a 
salad," advised his wife. 

" Hannah left it on the kitchen-table a minute, and the 
kittens got at it. I 'm very sorry, Amy," added Beth, who was 
still a patroness of cats. 

" Then I must have a lobster, for tongue alone won't do," 
said Amy decidedly. 

" Shall I rush into town and demand one? " asked Jo, with 
the magnanimity of a martyr. 

" You 'd come bringing it home under your arm, without 
any paper, just to try me. I '11 go myself," answered Amy, 
whose temper was beginning to fail. 

Shrouded in a thick veil and armed with a genteel travelling- 
basket, she departed, feeling that a cool drive would soothe her 
ruffled spirit, and fit her for the labors of the day. After some 
delay, the object of her desire was procured, likewise a bottle 
of dressing, to prevent further loss of time at home, and off 
she drove agam, well pleased with her own forethought. 

As the omnibus contained only one other passenger, a sleepy 
old lady, Amy pocketed her veil, and beguiled the tedium of 
the way by trying to find out where all her money had gone to. 
So busy was she with her card full of refractory figures that 
she did not observe a new-comer, who entered without stop- 
ping the vehicle, till a masculine voice said, " Good-morning, 
Miss March," and, looking up, she beheld one of Laurie's most 
elegant college friends. Fervently hoping that he would get 
out before she did, Amy utterly ignored the basket at her feet, 
and, congratulating herself that she had on her new travelling 
dress, returned the young man's greeting with her usual suavity 
and spirit. 

They got on excellently; for Amy's chief care was soon set 
at rest by learning that the gentleman would leave first, and 
she was chatting away in a peculiarly lofty strain, when the 
old lady got out. In stumbling to the door, she upset the 



LITTLE WOMEN 279 

basket, and oh, horror ! the lobster, in all its vulgar size 
and brilliancy, was revealed to the high-born eyes of a Tudor. 

" By Jove, she 's forgotten her dinner ! " cried the uncon- 
scious youth, poking the scarlet monster into its place with 
his cane, and preparing to hand out the basket after the old 
lady. 

" Please don't it 's it 's mine," murmured Amy, with a 
face nearly as red as her fish. 

" Oh, really, I beg pardon ; it 's an uncommonly fine one, 
is n't it? " said Tudor, with great presence of mind, and an air 
of sober interest that did credit to his breeding. 

Amy recovered herself in a breath, set her basket boldly on 
the seat, and said, laughing, 

" Don't you wish you were to have some of the salad he 's 
to make, and to see the charming young ladies who are to 
eat it?" 

Now that was tact, for two of the ruling foibles of the mas- 
culine mind were touched : the lobster was instantly surrounded 
by a halo of pleasing reminiscences, and curiosity about " the 
charming young ladies " diverted his mind from the comical 
mishap. 

" I suppose he '11 laugh and joke over it with Laurie, but I 
sha'n't see them ; that 's a comfort," thought Amy, as Tudor 
bowed and departed. 

She did not mention this meeting at home (though she dis- 
covered that, thanks to the upset, her new dress was much 
damaged by the rivulets of dressing that meandered down the 
skirt), but went through with the preparations which now 
seemed more irksome than before; and at twelve o'clock all 
was ready again. Feeling that the neighbors were interested 
in her movements, she wished to efface the memory of yes- 
terday's failure by a grand success to-day; so she ordered the 
" cherry-bounce," and drove away in state to meet and escort 
her guests to the banquet. 

"There's the rumble, they're coming! I'll go into the 
porch to meet them; it looks hospitable, and I want the poor 



280 LITTLE WOMEN 

child to have a good time after all her trouble," said Mrs. 
March, suiting the action to the word. But after one glance, 
she retired, with an indescribable expression, for, looking quite 
lost in the big carriage, sat Amy and one young lady. 

" Run, Beth, and help Hannah clear half the things off the 
table ; it will be too absurd to put a luncheon for twelve before 
a single girl," cried Jo, hurrying away to the lower regions, 
too excited to stop even for a laugh. 

In came Amy, quite calm, and delightfully cordial to the 
one guest who had kept her promise; the rest of the family, 
being of a dramatic turn, played their parts equally well, and 
Miss Eliott found them a most hilarious set ; for it was impos- 
sible to entirely control the merriment which possessed them. 
The remodelled lunch being gayly partaken of, the studio and 
garden visited, and art discussed with enthusiasm, Amy or- 
dered a buggy (alas for the elegant cherry-bounce!) and drove 
her friend quietly about the neighborhood till sunset, when 
" the party went out." 

As she came walking in, looking very tired, but as composed 
as ever, she observed that every vestige of the unfortunate fete 
had disappeared, except a suspicious pucker about the corners 
of Jo's mouth. 

" You Ve had a lovely afternoon for your drive, dear," said 
her mother, as respectfully as if the whole twelve had come. 

" Miss Eliott is a very sweet girl, and seemed to enjoy her- 
self, I thought," observed Beth, with unusual warmth. 

" Could you spare me some of your cake ? I really need 
some, I have so much company, and I can't make such delicious 
stuff as yours," asked Meg soberly. 

" Take it all ; I 'm the only one here who likes sweet things, 
and it will mould before I can dispose of it," answered Amy, 
thinking with a sigh of the generous store she had laid in for 
such an end as this. 

" It 's a pity Laurie is n't here to help us," began Jo, as they 
sat down to ice-cream and salad for the second time in two 
days. 



LITTLE WOMEN 281 

A warning look from her mother checked any further re- 
marks, and the whole family ate in heroic silence, till Mr. 
March mildly observed, " Salad was one of the favorite dishes 
of the ancients, and Evelyn " here a general explosion of 
laughter cut short the " history of sallets," to the great surprise 
of the learned gentleman. 

" Bundle everything into a basket and send it to the Hum- 
mels : Germans like messes. I 'm sick of the sight of this ; and 
there 's no reason you should all die of a surfeit because I 've 
been a fool," cried Amy, wiping her eyes. 

" I thought I should have died when I saw you two girls rat- 
tling about in the what-you-call-it, like two little kernels in a 
very big nut-shell, and mother waiting in state to receive the 
throng," sighed Jo, quite spent with laughter. 

" I 'm very sorry you were disappointed, dear, but we all did 
our best to satisfy you," said Mrs. March, in a tone full of 
motherly regret. 

" I am satisfied ; I Ve done what I undertook, and it 's not 
my fault that it failed ; I comfort myself with that," said Amy, 
with a little quaver in her voice. " I thank you all very much 
for helping me, and I '11 thank you still more if you won't 
allude to it for a month, at least." 

No one did for several months ; but the word " fete " always 
produced a general smile, and Laurie's birthday gift to Amy 
was a tiny coral lobster in the shape of a charm for her watch- 
guard. 

CHAPTER XXVII. 

LITERARY LESSONS. 

FORTUNE suddenly smiled upon Jo, and dropped a good-luck 
penny in her path. Not a golden penny, exactly, but I doubt if 
half a million would have given more real happiness than did 
the little sum that came to her in this wise. 

Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put 



283 LITTLE WOMEN 

on her scribbling suit, and " fall into a vortex," as she ex- 
pressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and 
soul, for till that was finished she could find no peace. Her 
"scribbling suit" consisted of a black woollen pinafore on 
which she could wipe her pen at will, and a cap of the same 
material, adorned with a cheerful red bow, into which she 
bundled her hair when the decks were cleared for action. This 
cap was a beacon to the inquiring eyes of her family, who dur- 
ing these periods kept their distance, merely popping in their 
heads semi-occasionally, to ask, with interest, " Does genius 
burn, Jo ? " They did not always venture even to ask this 
question, but took an observation of the cap, and judged ac- 
cordingly. If this expressive article of dress was drawn low 
upon the forehead, it was a sign that hard work was going on ; 
in exciting moments it was pushed rakishly askew ; and when 
despair seized the author it was plucked wholly off, and cast 
upon the floor. At such times the intruder silently withdrew; 
and not until the red bow was seen gayly erect upon the gifted 
brow, did any one dare address Jo. 

She did not think herself a genius by any means ; but when 
the writing fit came on, she gave herself up to it with entire 
abandon, and led a blissful life, unconscious of want, care, or 
bad weather, while she sat safe and happy in an imaginary 
world, full of friends almost as real and dear to her as any in 
the flesh. Sleep forsook her eyes, meals stood untasted, day 
and night were all too short to enjoy the happiness which 
blessed her only at such times, and made these hours worth 
living, even if they bore no other fruit. The divine afflatus 
usually lasted a week or two, and then she emerged from her 
" vortex," hungry, sleepy, cross, or despondent. 

She was just recovering from one of these attacks when she 
was prevailed upon to escort Miss Crocker to a lecture, and in 
return for her virtue was rewarded with a new idea. It was 
People's Course, the lecture on the Pyramids, and Jo rather 
wondered at the choice of such a subject for such an audience, 
but took Jt for granted that some great social evil would bfc 



LITTLE WOMEN 283 

remedied or some great want supplied by unfolding the glories 
of the Pharaohs to an audience whose thoughts were busy with 
the price of coal and flour, and whose lives were spent in trying 
to solve harder riddles than that of the Sphinx. 

They were early ; and while Miss Crocker set the heel of her 
stocking, Jo amused herself by examining the faces of the peo- 
ple who occupied the seat with them. On her left were two 
matrons, with massive foreheads, and bonnets to match, dis- 
cussing Woman's Rights and making tatting. Beyond sat a 
pair of humble lovers, artlessly holding each other by the hand, 
a sombre spinster eating peppermints out of a paper bag, and 
an old gentleman taking his preparatory nap behind a yellow 
bandanna. On her right, her only neighbor was a studious- 
looking lad absorbed in a newspaper. 

It was a pictorial sheet, and Jo examined the work of art 
nearest her, idly wondering what unfortuitous concatenation 
of circumstances needed the melodramatic illustration of an 
Indian in full war costume, tumbling over a precipice with a 
wolf at his throat, while two infuriated young gentlemen, with 
unnaturally small feet and big eyes, were stabbing each other 
close by, and a dishevelled female was flying away in the back- 
ground with her mouth wide open. Pausing to turn a page, 
the lad saw her looking, and, with boyish good-nature, offered 
half his paper, saying bluntly, "Want to read it? That's a 
first-rate story." 

Jo accepted it with a smile, for she had never outgrown her 
liking for lads, and soon found herself involved in the usual 
labyrinth of love, mystery, and murder, for the story belonged 
to that class of light literature in which the passions have a 
holiday, and when the author's invention fails, a grand catas- 
trophe clears the stage of one half the dramatis persona, leav- 
ing the other half to exult over their downfall. 

"Prime, isn't it?" asked the boy, as her eye went down 
the last paragraph of her portion. 

" I think you and I could do as well as that if we tried/ 5 
Returned Jo, amused at his admiration of the trash. 



284 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I should think I was a pretty lucky chap if I could. She 
makes a good living out of such stories, they say;" and he 
pointed to the name of Mrs. S. L. A. N. G. Northbury, under 
the title of the tale. 

" Do you know her ? " asked Jo, with sudden interest. 

" No ; but I read all her pieces, and I know a fellow who 
works in the office where this paper is printed." 

"Do you say she makes a good living out of stories like 
this?" and Jo looked more respectfully at the agitated group 
and thickly-sprinkled exclamation-points that adorned the page. 

" Guess she does ! She knows just what folks like, and gets 
paid well for writing it." 

Here the lecture began, but Jo heard very little of it, for 
while Prof. Sands was prosing away about Belzoni, Cheops, 
scarabei, and hieroglyphics, she was covertly taking down the 
address of the paper, and boldly resolving to try for the hun- 
dred-dollar prize offered in its columns for a sensational story. 
By the time the lecture ended and the audience awoke, she had 
built up a splendid fortune for herself (not the first founded 
upon paper), and was already deep in the concoction of her 
story, being unable to decide whether the duel should come 
before the elopement or after the murder. 

She said nothing of her plan at home, but fell to work next 
day, much to the disquiet of her mother, who always looked a 
little anxious when " genius took to burning." Jo had never 
tried this style before, contenting herself with very mild ro- 
mances for the " Spread Eagle." Her theatrical experience and 
miscellaneous reading were of service now, for they gave her 
some idea of dramatic effect, and supplied plot, language, and 
costumes. Her story was as full of desperation and despair as 
her limited acquaintance with those uncomfortable emotions 
enabled her to make it, and, having located it in Lisbon, she 
wound up with an earthquake, as a striking and appropriate 
denouement. The manuscript was privately despatched, ac- 
companied by a note, modestly saying that if the tale did n't 
pet the prize, which the writer hardly dared expect, she would 






LITTLE WOMEN 285 

be very glad to receive any sum it might be considered worth. 

Six weeks is a long time to wait, and a still longer time for 
a girl to keep a secret ; but Jo did both, and was just beginning 
to give up all hope of ever seeing her manuscript again, when 
a letter arrived which almost took her breath away ; for on 
opening it, a check for a hundred dollars fell into her lap. For 
a minute she stared at it as if it had been a snake, then she read 
her letter and began to cry. If the amiable gentleman who 
wrote that kindly note could have known what intense happi- 
ness he was giving a fellow-creature, I think he would devote 
his leisure hours, if he has any, to that amusement; for Jo 
valued the letter more than the money, because it was encour- 
aging; and after years of effort it was so pleasant to find that 
she had learned to do something, though it was only to write a 
sensation story. 

A prouder young woman was seldom seen than she, when, 
having composed herself, she electrified the family by appear- 
ing before them with the letter in one hand, the check in the 
other, announcing that she had won the prize. Of course there 
was a great jubilee, and when the story came every one read 
and praised it; though after her father had told her that the 
language was good, the romance fresh and hearty, and the 
tragedy quite thrilling, he shook his head, and said in his 
unworldly way, 

" You can do better than this, Jo. Aim at the highest, and 
never mind the money." 

" / think the money is the best part of it. What will you do 
with such a fortune ? " asked Amy, regarding the magic slip of 
paper with a reverential eye. 

" Send Beth and mother to the seaside for a month or two," 
answered Jo promptly. 

" Oh, how splendid ! No, I can't do it, dear, it would be so 
selfish," cried Beth, who had clapped her thin hands, and taken 
a long breath, as if pining for fresh ocean-breezes; then 
stopped herself, and motioned away the check which her sister 
waved before her. 



286 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Ah, but you shall go, I 've set my heart on it ; that's what 
1 tried for, and that 's why I succeeded. I never get oil when 
I think of myself alone, so it will help me to work for you, 
don't you see? Besides, Marmee needs the change, and she 
won't leave you, so you must go. Won't it be fun to see you 
come home plump and rosy again? Hurrah for Dr. Jo, who 
always cures her patients ! " 

To the seaside they went, after much discussion ; and though 
Beth did n't come home as plump and rosy as could be desired, 
she was much better, while Mrs. March declared she felt ten 
years younger; so Jo was satisfied with the investment of her 
prize money, and fell to work with a cheery spirit, bent on 
earning more of those delightful checks. She did earn several 
that year, and began to feel herself a power in the house; for 
by the magic of a pen, her " rubbish " turned into comforts 
for them all. " The Duke's Daughter " paid the butcher's bill, 
" A Phantom Hand " put down a new carpet, and the " Curse 
of the Coventrys " proved the blessing of the Marches in the 
way of groceries and gowns. 

Wealth is certainly a most desirable thing, but poverty has 
its sunny side, and one of the sweet uses of adversity is the 
genuine satisfaction which comes from hearty work of heaa 
or hand; and to the inspiration of necessity, we owe half the 
wise, beautiful, and useful blessings of the world. Jo enjoyed 
a taste of this satisfaction, and ceased to envy richer girls, tak- 
ing great comfort in the knowledge that she could supply her 
own wants, and need ask no one for a penny. 

Little notice was taken of her stories, but they found a mar- 
ket ; and, encouraged by this fact, she resolved to make a bold 
stroke for fame and fortune. Having copied her novel for 
the fourth time, read it to all her confidential friends, and sub- 
mitted it with fear and trembling to three publishers, she at 
last disposed of it, on condition that she would cut it down one 
third, and omit all the parts which she particularly admired. 

" Now J must either bundle it back into my tin-kitchen to 
mould, pay for printing it myself, or chop it up to suit pur- 



LITTLE WOMEN 28? 

chasers, and get what I can for it. Fame is a very good thing 
to have in the house, but cash is more convenient ; so I wish to 
take the sense of the meeting on this important subject," said 
Jo, calling a family council. 

" Don't spoil your book, my girl, for there is more in it than 
you know, and the idea is well worked out. Let it wait and 
ripen," was her father's advice; and he practised as he 
preached, having waited patiently thirty years for fruit of his 
own to ripen, and being in no haste to gather it, even now, 
when it was sweet and mellow. 

" It seems to me that Jo will profit more by making the trial 
than by waiting," said Mrs. March. " Criticism is the best test 
of such work, for it will show her both unsuspected merits and 
faults, and help her to do better next time. We are too partial ; 
but the praise and blame of outsiders wiU prove useful, even 
if she gets but little money." 

" Yes," said Jo, knitting her brows, " that 's just it ; I 've 
been fussing over the thing so long, I really don't know whether 
it 's good, bad, or indifferent. It will be a great help to have 
cool, impartial persons take a look at it, and tell me what they 
think of it." 

" I would n't leave out a word of it ; you '11 spoil it if you 
do, for the interest of the story is more in the minds than in 
the actions of the people, and it will be all a muddle if you 
don't explain as you go on," said Meg, who firmly believed 
that this book was the most remarkable novel ever written. 

" But Mr. Allen says, ' Leave out the explanations, make it 
brief and dramatic, and let the characters tell the story,' " 
interrupted Jo, turning to the publisher's note. 

" Do as he tells you ; he knows what will sell, and we don't. 
Make a good, popular book, and get as much money as you 
can. By and by, when you Ve got a name, you can afford to 
digress, and have philosophical and metaphysical people in 
your novels," said Amy, who took a strictly practical view of 
the subject. 

" Well," said Jo, laughing, " if my people are ' philosophiral 



288 LITTLE WOMEN 

and metaphysical/ it is n't my fault, for I know nothing about 
such things, except what I hear father say, sometimes. If I 've 
got some of his wise ideas jumbled up with my romance, so 
much the better for me. Now, Beth, what do you say ? " 

" I should so like to see it printed soon," was all Beth said, 
anft smiled in saying it ; but there was an unconscious emphasis 
on the last word, and a wistful look in the eyes that never lost 
their childlike candor, which chilled Jo's heart, for a minute, 
with a foreboding fear, and decided her to make her little 
venture " soon." 

So, with Spartan firmness, the young authoress laid her first- 
born on her table, and chopped it up as ruthlessly as any ogre. 
In the hope of pleasing every one, she took every one's advice ; 
and, like the old man and his donkey in the fable, suited 
nobody. 

Her father liked the metaphysical streak which had uncon- 
sciously got into it; so that was allowed to remain, though she 
had her doubts about it. Her mother thought that there was 
a trifle too much description ; out, therefore, it nearly all came, 
and with it many necessary links in the story. Meg admired 
the tragedy; so Jo piled up the agony to suit her, while Amy 
objected to the fun, and, with the best intentions in life, Jo 
quenched the sprightly scenes which relieved the sombre char- 
acter of the story. Then, to complete the ruin, she cut it down 
one third, and confidingly sent the poor little romance, like a 
picked robin, out into the big, busy world, to try its fate. 

Well, it was printed, and she got three hundred dollars for 
it; likewise plenty of praise and blame, both so much greater 
than she expected that she was thrown into a state of bewilder- 
ment, from which it took her some time to recover. 

" You said, mother, that criticism would help me ; but how 
can it, when it 's so contradictory that I don't know whether 
I Ve written a promising book or broken all the ten command- 
ments ? " cried poor Jo, turning over a heap of notices, the 
perusal of which filled her with pride and joy one minute, 
wrath and dire dismay the next. " This man says ' An ex- 






LITTLE WOMEN 289 

quisite book, full of truth, beauty, and earnestness ; all is sweet, 
pure, and healthy/ " continued the perplexed authoress. " The 
next, ' The theory of the book is bad, full of morbid fancies, 
spiritualistic ideas, and unnatural characters/ Now, as I had 
no theory of any kind, don't believe in Spiritualism, and copied 
my characters from life, I don't see how this critic can be right. 
Another says, ' It 's one of the best American novels which has 
appeared for years ' (I know better than that) ; and the next 
asserts that ' though it is original, and written with great force 
and feeling, it is a dangerous book/ *T is n't ! Some make 
fun of it, some over-praise, and nearly all insist that I had a 
deep theory to expound, when I only wrote it for the pleasure 
and the money. I wish I 'd printed it whole or not at all, for 
I do hate to be so misjudged." 

Her family and friends administered comfort and commen- 
dation liberally; yet it was a hard time for sensitive, high- 
spirited Jo, who meant so well, and had apparently done so ill. 
But it did her good, for those whose opinion had real value 
gave her the criticism which is an author's best education ; and 
when the first soreness was over, she could laugh at her poor 
little book, yet believe in it still, and feel herself the wiser and 
stronger for the buffeting she had received. 

" Not being a genius, like Keats, it won't kill me," she said 
stoutly; " and I 've got the joke on my side, after all; for the 
parts that were taken straight out of real life are denounced as 
impossible and absurd, and the scenes that I made up out of 
my own silly head are pronounced ' charmingly natural, tender, 
and true/ So I '11 comfort myself with that ; and when I 'm 
ready, I '11 up again and take another." 

CHAPTER XXVIII. 

DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 

LIKE most other young matrons, Meg began her married 
life with the determination to be a model housekeeper. John 



390 LITTLE WOMEN 

should find home a paradise; he should always see a smiling 
face, should fare sumptuously every day, and never know the 
loss of a button. She brought so much love, energy, and 
cheerfulness to the work that she could not but succeed, in 
spite of some obstacles. Her paradise was not a tranquil one ; 
for the little woman fussed, was over-anxious to please, and 
bustled about like a true Martha, cumbered with many cares. 
She was too tired, sometimes, even to smile ; John grew dyspep- 
tic after a course of dainty dishes, and ungratefully demanded 
plain fare. As for buttons, she soon learned to wonder where 
they went, to shake her head over the carelessness of men, and 
to threaten to make him sew them on himself, and then see if 
his work would stand impatient tugs and clumsy fingers any 
better than hers. 

They were very happy, even after they discovered that they 
could n't live on love alone. John did not find Meg's beauty 
diminished, though she beamed at him from behind the familiar 
coffee-pot; nor did Meg miss any of the romance from the 
daily parting, when her husband followed up his kiss with the 
tender inquiry, " Shall I send home veal or mutton for dinner, 
darling ? " The little house ceased to be a glorified bower, but 
it became a home, and the young couple soon felt that it was 
a change for the better. At first they played keep-house, and 
frolicked over it like children ; then John took steadily to busi- 
ness, feeling the cares of the head of a family upon his shoul- 
ders; and Meg laid by her cambric wrappers, put on a big 
apron, and fell to work, as before said, with more energy than 
discretion. 

While the cooking mania lasted she went through Mrs. 
Cornelius's Receipt Book as if it were a mathematical exer- 
cise, working out the problems with patience and care. Some- 
times her family were invited in to help eat up a too bounteous 
feast of successes, or Lotty would be privately despatched with 
a batch of failures, which were to be concealed from all eyes in 
the convenient stomachs of the little Hummels. An evening 
with John over the account-books usually produced a temporary 



LITTLE WOMEN 291 

lull in the culinary enthusiasm, and a frugal fit would ensue, 
during which the poor man was put through a course of bread- 
pudding, hash, and warmed-over coffee, which tried his soul, 
although he bore it with praiseworthy fortitude. Before the 
golden mean was found, however, Meg added to her domestic; 
possessions what young couples seldom get on long without, 
a family jar. 

Fired with a housewifely wish to see her store-room stocked 
with home-made preserves, she undertook to put up her own 
currant jelly. John was requested to order home a dozen or 
so of little pots, and an extra quantity of sugar, for their own 
currants were ripe, and were to be attended to at once. As 
John firmly believed that " my wife " was equal to anything, 
and took a natural pride in her skill, he resolved that she should 
be gratified, and their only crop of fruit laid by in a most 
pleasing form for winter use. Home came four dozen delight- 
ful little pots, half a barrel of sugar, and a small boy to pick 
the currants for her. With her pretty hair tucked into a little 
cap, arms bared to the elbow, and a checked apron which had 
a coquettish look in spite of the bib, the young housewife fell 
to work, feeling no doubts about her success; for hadn't she 
seen Hannah do it hundreds of times? The array of pots 
rather amazed her at first, but John was so fond of jelly, and 
the nice little jars would look so well on the top shelf, that 
Meg resolved to fill them all, and spent a long day picking, 
boiling, straining, and fussing over her jelly. She did her best; 
she asked advice of Mrs. Cornelius; she racked her brain to 
remember what Hannah did that she had left undone; she re* 
boiled, resugared, and restrained, but that dreadful stuff 
wouldn't ";>//." 

She longed to run home, bib and all, and ask mother to lend 
a hand, but John and she had agreed that they would never 
annoy any one with their private worries, experiments, or 
quarrels. They had laughed over that last word as if the idea 
xt suggested was a most preposterous one; but they had held 
to their resolve, and whenever they could get on without help 



292 LITTLE WOMEN 

they did so, and no one interfered, for Mrs. March had ad- 
vised the plan. So Meg wrestled alone with the refractory 
sweetmeats all that hot summer day, and at five o'clock sat 
down in her topsy-turvy kitchen, wrung her bedaubed hands, 
lifted up her voice and wept. 

Now, in the first flush of the new life, she had often said, 

" My husband shall always feel free to bring a friend home 
whenever he likes. I shall always be prepared; there shall be 
no flurry, no scolding, no discomfort, but a neat house, a cheer- 
ful wife, and a good dinner. John, dear, never stop to ask my 
leave, invite whom you please, and be sure of a welcome from 
me." 

How charming that was, to be sure! John quite glowed 
with pride to hear her say it, and felt what a blessed thing it 
was to have a superior wife. But, although they had had com- 
pany from time to time, it never happened to be unexpected, 
and Meg had never had an opportunity to distinguish herself 
till now. It always happens so in this vale of tears ; there is an 
inevitability about such things which we can only wonder at, 
deplore, and bear as we best can. 

If John had not forgotten all about the jelly, it really would 
have been unpardonable in him to choose that day, of all the 
days in the year, to bring a friend home to dinner unexpect- 
edly. Congratulating himself that a handsome repast had been 
ordered that morning, feeling sure that it would be ready to 
the minute, and indulging in pleasant anticipations of the 
charming effect it would produce, when his pretty wife came 
running out to meet him, he escorted his friend to his mansion, 
with the irrepressible satisfaction of a young host and husband. 

It is a world of disappointments, as John discovered when 
he reached the Dove-cote. The front door usually stood hos- 
pitably open; now it was not only shut, but locked, and yes- 
terday's mud still adorned the steps. The parlor-windows were 
closed and curtained, no picture of the pretty wife sewing on 
the piazza, in white, with a distracting little bow in her hair, 
or a bright-eyed hostess, smiling a shy welcome as she greeted 






LITTLE WOMEN 293 

her guest. Nothing of the sort, for not a soul appeared, but a 
sanguinary-looking boy asleep under the currant-bushes. 

" I 'm afraid something has happened. Step into the garden, 
Scott, while I look up Mrs. Brooke/' said John, alarmed at the 
silence and solitude. 

Round the house he hurried, led by a pungent smell of burnt 
sugar, and Mr. Scott strolled after him, with a queer look on 
his face. He paused discreetly at a distance when Brooke 
disappeared; but he could both see and hear, and, being a 
bachelor, enjoyed the prospect mightily. 

In the kitchen reigned confusion and despair ; one edition of 
jelly was trickled from pot to pot, another lay upon the floor, 
and a third was burning gayly on the stove. Lotty, with Teu- 
tonic phlegm, was calmly eating bread and currant wine, for 
the jelly was still in a hopelessly liquid state, while Mrs. 
Brooke, with her apron over her head, sat sobbing dismally. 

" My dearest girl, what is the matter ? " cried John, rushing 
in, with awful visions of scalded hands, sudden news of afflic- 
tion, and secret consternation at the thought of the guest in 
the garden. 

" O John, I am so tired and hot and cross and worried ! 
I J ve been at it till I 'm all worn out. Do come and help me 
or I shall die ! " and the exhausted housewife cast herself upon 
nis breast, giving him a sweet welcome in every sense of the 
word, for her pinafore had been baptized at the same time as 
the floor. 

"What worries you, dear? Has anything dreadful hap- 
pened ? " asked the anxious John, tenderly kissing the crown of 
the little cap, which was all askew. 

" Yes," sobbed Meg despairingly. 

" Tell me quick, then. Don't cry, I can bear anything better 
than that. Out with it, love." 

" The the jelly won't jell and I don't know what to do! " 

John Brooke laughed then as he never dared to laugh after- 
ward; and the derisive Scott smiled involuntarily as he heard 



294 LITTLE WOMEN 

the hearty peal, which put the finishing stroke to poor Meg's 
woe. 

" Is that all ? Fling it out of window, and don't bother any 
more about it. I '11 buy you quarts if you want it ; but for 
heaven's sake don't have hysterics, for I 've brought Jack 
Scott home to dinner, and " 

John got no further, for Meg cast him off, and clasped her 
hands with a tragic gesture as she fell into a chair, exclaiming 
in a tone of mingled indignation, reproach, and dismay, 

" A man to dinner, and everything in a mess ! John Brooke, 
how could you do such a thing ? " 

" Hush, he 's in the garden! I forgot the confounded jelly, 
but it can't be helped now," said John, surveying the prospect 
with an anxious eye. 

" You ought to have sent word, or told me this morning, 
and you ought to have remembered how busy I was," con- 
tinued Meg petulantly; for even turtle-doves will peck when 
ruffled. 

" I did n't know it this morning, and there was no time to 
send word, for I met him on the way out. I never thought of 
asking leave, when you have always told me to do as I liked. 
I never tried it before, and hang me if I ever do again!" 
added John, with an aggrieved air. 

" I should hope not ! Take him away at once ; I can't see 
him, and there is n't any dinner." 

" Well, I like that ! Where's the beef and vegetables I sent 
home, and the pudding you promised ? " cried John, rushing 
to the larder. 

" I had n't time to cook anything ; I meant to dine at mother's. 
I 'm sorry, but I was so busy ; " and Meg's tears began again. 

John was a mild man, but he was human; and after a long 
day's work, to come home tired, hungry, and hopeful, to find 
a chaotic house, an empty table, and a cross wife was not ex- 
actly conducive to repose of mind or manner. He restrained 
himself, however, and the little squall would have blown over, 
but for one unlucky word. 



LITTLE WOMEN 295 

" It 's a scrape, I acknowledge ; but if you will lend a hand, 
we '11 pull through, and have a good time yet. Don't cry, dear, 
but just exert yourself a bit, and knock us up something to eat. 
We 're both as hungry as hunters, so we sha'n't mind what it 
is. Give us the cold meat, and bread and cheese ; we won't ask 
for jelly." 

He meant it for a good-natured joke; but that one word 
sealed his fate. Meg thought it was too cruel to hint about her 
sad failure, and the last atom of patience vanished as he spoke. 

" You must get yourself out of the scrape as you can ; I 'm 
too used up to ' exert ' myself for any one. It 's like a man to 
propose a bone and vulgar bread and cheese for company. I 
won't have anything of the sort in my house. Take that Scott 
up to mother's, and tell him I 'm away, sick, dead, anything. 
I won't see him, and you two can laugh at me and my jelly as 
much as you like : you won't have anything else here ; " and 
having delivered her defiance all in one breath, Meg cast away 
her pinafore, and precipitately left the field to bemoan herself 
in her own room. 

What those two creatures did in her absence, she never 
knew ; but Mr. Scott was not taken " up to mother's," and 
when Meg descended, after they had strolled away together, 
she found traces of a promiscuous lunch which filled her with 
horror. Lotty reported that they had eaten " a much, and 
greatly laughed, and the master bid her throw away all the 
sweet stuff, and hide the pots." 

Meg longed to go and tell mother ; but a sense of shame at 
her own shortcomings, of loyalty to John, " who might be 
cruel, but nobody should know it," restrained her ; and after a" 
summary clearing up, she dressed herself prettily, and sat down 
to wait for John to come and be forgiven. 

Unfortunately, John didn't come, not seeing the matter in 
that light. He had carried it off as a good joke with Scott, 
excused his little wife as well as he could, and played the host 
so hospitably that his friend enjoyed the impromptu dinner, 
and promised to come again. But John was angry, though he 



296 LITTLE WOMEN 

did not show it; he felt that Meg had got him into a scrape, 
and then deserted him in his hour of need. " It was n't fair 
to tell a man to bring folks home any time, with perfect free- 
dom, and when he took you at your word, to flare up and 
blame him, and leave him in the lurch, to be laughed at or 
pitied. No, by George, it was n't ! and Meg must know it." 
He had fumed inwardly during the feast, but when the flurry 
was over, and he strolled home, after seeing Scott off, a milder 
mood came over him. " Poor little thing ! it was hard upon 
her when she tried so heartily to please me. She was wrong, 
of course, but then she was young. I must be patient and 
teach her/' He hoped she had not gone home he hated 
gossip and interference. For a minute he was ruffled again at 
the mere thought of it ; and then the fear that Meg would cry 
herself sick softened his heart, and sent him on at a quicker 
pace, resolving to be calm and kind, but firm, quite firm, and 
show her where she had failed in her duty to her spouse. 

Meg likewise resolved to be " calm and kind, but firm," and 
show him his duty. She longed to run to meet him, and beg 
pardon, and be kissed and comforted, as she was sure of being ; 
but, of course, she did nothing of the sort, and when she saw 
John coming, began to hum quite naturally, as she rocked and 
sewed, like a lady of leisure in her best parlor. 

John was a little disappointed not to find a tender Niobe; 
but, feeling that his dignity demanded the first apology, he 
made none, only came leisurely in, and laid himself upon the 
sofa, with the singularly relevant remark, 

" We are going to have a new moon, my dear." 

" I Ve no objection," was Meg's equally soothing remark. 

A few other topics of general interest were introduced by 
Mr. Brooke, and wet-blanketed by Mrs. Brooke, and conversa- 
tion languished. John went to one window, unfolded his paper, 
and wrapped himself irr it, figuratively speaking. Meg went 
to the other window, and sewed as if new rosettes for her slip- 
pers were among the necessaries of life. Neither spoke; both 



LITTLE WOMEN 297 

/boked quite " calm and firm," and both felt desperately un- 
comfortable. 

" Oh dear," thought Meg, " married life is very trying, and 
does need infinite patience, as well as love, as mother says." 
The word " mother " suggested other maternal counsels, given 
long ago, and received with unbelieving protests. 

" John is a good man, but he has his faults, and you must 
learn to see and bear with them, remembering your own. He 
is very decided, but never will be obstinate, if you reason 
kindly, not oppose impatiently. He is very accurate, and par- 
ticular about the truth a good trait, though you call him 
' fussy.' Never deceive him by look or word, Meg, and he will 
give you the confidence you deserve, the support you need. He 
has a temper, not like ours, one flash, and then all over, but 
the white, still anger, that is seldom stirred, but once ^indled, 
is hard to quench. Be careful, very careful, not to wake this 
anger against yourself, for peace and happiness depend on 
keeping his respect. Watch yourself, be the first to ask pardon 
if you both err, and guard against the little piques, misunder- 
standings, and hasty words that often pave the way for bitter 
sorrow and regret." 

These words came back to Meg, as she sat sewing in the 
sunset, especially the last. This was the first serious disagree- 
ment; her own hasty speeches sounded both silly and unkind, 
as she recalled them, her own anger looked childish now, and 
thoughts of poor John coming home to such a scene quite 
melted her heart. She glanced at him with tears in her eyes, 
but he did not see them; she put down her work and got up, 
thinking, " I will be the first to say, ' Forgive me/ " but he did 
not seem to hear her ; she went very slowly across the room, 
for pride was hard to swallow, and stood by him, but he did 
not turn his head. For a minute she felt as if she really 
could n't do it ; then came the thought, " This is the beginning, 
I '11 do my part, and have nothing to reproach myself with," 
and stooping down, she softly kissed her husband on the fore- 
head. Qi course that settled it; the penitent kiss was better 



298 LITTLE WOMEN 

than a world of words, and John had her on his knee in a 
minute, saying tenderly, 

" It was too bad to laugh at the poor little jelly-pots. For- 
give me, dear, I never will again ! " 

But he did, oh bless you, yes, hundreds of times, and so did 
Meg, both declaring that it was the sweetest jelly they ever 
made ; for family peace was preserved in that little family jar. 

After this, Meg had Mr. Scott to dinner by special invita- 
tion, and served him up a pleasant feast without a cooked wife 
for the first course; on which occasion she was so gay and 
gracious, and made everything go off so charmingly, that Mr. 
Scott told John he was a happy fellow, and shook his head over 
the hardships of bachelorhood all the way home. 

In the autumn, new trials and experiences came to Meg. 
Sallie Moffat renewed her friendship, was always running out 
for a dish of gossip at the little house, or inviting " that poor 
dear " to come in and spend the day at the big house. It was 
pleasant, for in dull weather Meg often felt lonely; all were 
busy at home, John absent till night, and nothing to do but 
sew, or read, or potter about. So it naturally fell out that Meg 
got into the way of gadding and gossiping with her friend. 
Seeing Sallie's pretty things made her long for such, and pity 
herself because she had not got them. Sallie was very kind, 
and often offered her the coveted trifles; but Meg declined 
them, knowing that John would n't like it ; and then this 
foolish little woman went and did what John disliked infinitely 
worse. 

She knew her husband's income, and she loved to feel that 
he trusted her, not only with his happiness, but what some men 
seem to value more, his money. She knew where it was, was 
free to take what she liked, and all he asked was that she should 
keep account of every penny, pay bills once a month, and re- 
member that she was a poor man's wife. Till now, she had 
done well, been prudent and exact, kept her little account-books 
neatly, and showed them to him monthly without fear. But 
that autumn the serpent got into Meg's paradise, and tempted 



LITTLE WOMEN 299 

her, like many a modern Eve, not with apples, but with dress. 
Meg did n't like to be pitied and made to feel poor ; it irritated 
her, but she was ashamed to confess it, and now and then she 
tried to console herself by buying something pretty, so that 
Sallie need n't think she had to economize. She always felt 
wicked after it, for the pretty things were seldom necessaries ; 
but then they cost so little, it was n't worth worrying about ; 
so the trifles increased unconsciously, and in the shopping ex- 
cursions she was no longer a passive looker-on. 

But the trifles cost more than one would imagine ; and when 
she cast up her accounts at the end of the month, the sum 
total rather scared her. John was busy that month, and left 
the bills to her ; the next month he was absent ; but the third he 
had a grand quarterly settling up, and Meg never forgot it. A 
few days before she had done a dreadful thing, and it weighed 
upon her conscience. Sallie had been buying silks, and Meg 
longed for a new one, just a handsome light one for parties, 
her black silk was so common, and thin things for evening wear 
were only proper for girls. Aunt March usually gave the 
sisters a present of twenty-five dollars apiece at New Year; 
that was only a month to wait, and here was a lovely violet silk 
going at a bargain, and she had the money, if she only dared 
to take it. John always said what was his was hers ; but would 
he think it right to spend not only the prospective five-and- 
twenty, but another five-and-twenty out of the household fund ? 
That was the question. Sallie had urged her to do it, had 
offered to loan the money, and with the best intentions in life, 
had tempted Meg beyond her strength. In an evil moment the 
shopman held up the lovely, shimmering folds, and said, " A 
bargain, I assure you, ma'am." She answered, " I '11 take it ; " 
and it was cut off and paid for, and Sallie had exulted, and she 
had laughed as if it were a thing of no consequence, and driven 
away, feeling as if she had stolen something, and the police 
were after her. 

When she got home, she tried to assuage the pangs of re- 
morse by spreading forth the lovely silk ; but it looked less sil- 



300 LITTLE WOMEN 

very now, didn't become her, after all, and the words "fifty 
dollars " seemed stamped like a pattern down each breadth. 
She put it away; but it haunted her, not delightfully, as a new 
dress should, but dreadfully, like the ghost of a folly that was 
not easily laid. When John got out his books that night, Meg's 
heart sank, and, for the first time in her married life, she was 
afraid of her husband. The kind, brown eyes looked as if they 
could be stern ; and though he was unusually merry, she fancied 
he had found her out, but did n't mean to let her know it. The 
house-bills were all paid, the books all in order. John had 
praised her, and was undoing the old pocketbook which they 
called the " bank," when Meg, knowing that it was quite empty, 
stopped his hand, saying nervously, 

" You have n't seen my private expense book yet." 

John never asked to see it ; but she always insisted on his do- 
ing so, and used to enjoy his masculine amazement at the queer 
things women wanted, and made him guess what " piping " 
was, demand fiercely the meaning of a " hug-me-tight," or 
wonder how a little thing composed of three rosebuds, a bit of 
velvet, and a pair of strings, could possibly be a bonnet, and 
cost five or six dollars. That night he looked as if he would 
like the fun of quizzing her figures and pretending to be hor- 
rified at her extravagance, as he often did, being particularly 
proud of his prudent wife. 

The little book was brought slowly out, and laid down before 
him. Meg got behind his chair under pretence of smoothing 
the wrinkles out of his tired forehead, and standing there, she 
said, with her panic increasing with every word, 

" John, dear, I 'm ashamed to show you my book, for I Ve 
really been dreadfully extravagant lately. I go about so much 
I must have things, you know, and Sallie advised my getting 
it, so I did ; and my New-Year's money will partly pay for it : 
but I was sorry after I 'd done it, for I knew you 'd think it 
wrong in me." 

John laughed, and drew her round beside him, saying good- 
humoredly, " Don't go and hide. I won't beat you if you have 



LITTLE WOMEN 301 

got a pair of killing boots ; I 'm rather proud of my wife's feet, 
and don't mind if she does pay eight or nine dollars for her 
boots, if they are good ones." 

That had been one of her last " trifles," and John's eye had 
fallen on it as he spoke. " Oh, what will he say when he comes 
to that awful fifty dollars / " thought Meg, with a shiver. 

" It 's worse than boots, it 's a silk dress," she said, with the 
calmness of desperation, for she wanted the worst over. 

" Well, dear, what is the ' dem'd total/ as Mr. Mantalini 
says?" 

That did n't sound like John, and she knew he was looking 
up at her with the straightforward look that she had always 
been ready to meet and answer with one as frank till now. 
She turned the page and her head at the same time, pointing to 
the sum which would have been bad enough without the fifty, 
but which was appalling to her with that added. For a minute 
the room was very still ; then John said slowly, but she could 
feel it cost him an effort to express no displeasure, 

" Well, I don't know that fifty is much for a dress, with all 
the furbelows and notions you have to have to finish it off 
these days." 

" It is n't made or trimmed," sighed Meg faintly, for a sud- 
den recollection of the cost still to be incurred quite over- 
whelmed her. 

" Twenty-five yards of silk seems a good deal to cover one 
small woman, but I 've no doubt my wife will look as fine as 
Ned Moffat's when she gets it on," said John dryly. 

" I know you are angry, John, but I can't help it. I don't 
mean to waste your money, and I did nt think those little things 
would count up so. I can't resist them when I see Sallie buying 
all -she wants, and pitying me because I don't. I try to be 
contented, but it is hard, and I 'm tired of being poor." 

The last words were spoken so low she thought he did not 
hear them, but he did, and they wounded him deeply, for he 
had denied himself many pleasures for Meg's sake. She could 
have bitten her tongue out the minute she had said it, for John 



302 LITTLE WOMEN 

pushed the books away, and got up, saying, with a little quiver 
in his voice, " I was afraid of this ; I do my best, Meg." If he 
had scolded her, or even shaken her, it would not have broken 
her heart like those few words. She ran to him and held him 
close, crying, with repentant tears, " O John, my dear, kind, 
hard-working boy, I did n't mean it ! It was so wicked, so 
untrue and ungrateful, how could I say it! Oh, how could I 
say it ! " 

He was very kind, forgave her readily, and did not utter 
one reproach; but Meg knew that she had done and said a 
thing which would not be forgotten soon, although he might 
never allude to it again. She had promised to love him for 
better for worse; and then she, his wife, had reproached him 
with his poverty, after spending his earnings recklessly. It 
was dreadful ; and the worst of it was John went on so quietly 
afterward, just as if nothing had happened, except that he 
stayed in town later, and worked at night when she had gone 
to cry herself to sleep. A week of remorse nearly made Meg 
sick ; and the discovery that John had countermanded the order 
for his new great-coat reduced her to a state of despair which 
was pathetic to behold. He had simply said, in answer to her 
surprised inquiries as to the change, " I can't afford it, my 
dear." 

Meg said no more, but a few minutes after he found her in 
the hall, with her face buried in the old great-coat, crying as if 
her heart would break. 

They had a long talk that night, and Meg learned to love 
her husband better for his poverty, because it seemed to have 
made a man of him, given him the strength and courage to fight 
his own way, and taught him a tender patience with which tc 
bear and comfort the natural longings and failures of those 
he loved. 

Next day she put her pride in her pocket, went to Sallie, 
told the truth, and asked her to buy the silk as a favor. The 
good-natured Mrs. Moffat willingly did so, and had the delicacy 
not to make her a present of it immediately afterward. Then 



LITTLE WOMEN 303 

Meg ordered home the great-coat, and, when John arrived, she 
put it on, and asked him how he liked her new silk gown. One 
can imagine what answer he made, how he received his pres- 
ent, and what a blissful state of things ensued. John came 
home early, Meg gadded no more ; and that great-coat was put 
on in the morning by a very happy husband, and taken off at 
night by a most devoted little wife. So the year rolled round, 
and at midsummer there came to Meg a new experience, the 
deepest and tenderest of a woman's life. 

Laurie came sneaking into the kitchen of the Dove-cote, one 
Saturday, with an excited face, and was received with the clash 
of cymbals ; for Hannah clapped her hands with a saucepan in 
one and the cover in the other. 

" How's the little mamma ? Where is everybody ? Why 
did n't you tell me before I came home ? " began Laurie, in a 
loud whisper. 

" Happy as a queen, the dear ! Every soul of 'em is upstairs 
a worshipin' ; we did n't want no hurrycanes round. Now you 
go into the parlor, and I '11 send 'em down to you," with which 
somewhat involved reply Hannah vanished, chuckling ec- 
statically. 

Presently Jo appeared, proudly bearing a flannel bundle laid 
forth upon a large pillow. Jo's face was very sober, but her 
eyes twinkled, and there was an odd sound in her voice of 
repressed emotion of some sort. 

" Shut your eyes and hold out your arms," she said invitingly. 

Laurie backed precipitately into a corner, and put his hands 
behind him with an imploring gesture : " No, thank you, I 'd 
rather not. I shall drop it or smash it, as sure as fate." 

" Then you sha'n't see your newy," said Jo decidedly, turn- 
ing as if to go. 

" I will, I will ! only you must be responsible for damages ; " 
and, obeying orders, Laurie heroically shut his eyes while some- 
thing was put into his arms. A peal of laughter from Jo, 
Amy, Mrs. March, Hannah, and John caused him to open 



304 LITTLE WOMEN 

them the next minute, to find himself invested with two babies 
instead of one. 

No wonder they laughed, for the expression of his face was 
droll enough to convulse a Quaker, as he stood and stared 
wildly from the unconscious innocents to the hilarious spec- 
tators, with such dismay that Jo sat down on the floor and 
screamed. 

" Twins, by Jupiter ! " was all he said for a minute ; then, 
turning to the women with an appealing look that was comically 
piteous, he added, " Take 'em quick, somebody ! I 'm going to 
laugh, and I shall drop 'em." 

John rescued his babies, and marched up and down, with 
one on each arm, as if already initiated into the mysteries of 
baby-tending, while Laurie laughed till the tears ran down his 
cheeks. 

" It 's the best joke of the season, is 'nt it? I would n't have 
you told, for I set my heart on surprising you, and I flatter 
myself I Ve done it," said Jo, when she got her breath. 

" I never was more staggered in my life. Is n't it fun ? Are 
they boys ? What are you going to name them ? Let 's have 
another look. Hold me up, Jo; for upon my life it's one too 
many for me," returned Laurie, regarding the infants with the 
air of a big, benevolent Newfoundland looking at a pair of 
infantile kittens. 

" Boy and girl. Are n't they beauties ? " said the proud papa, 
beaming upon the little, red squirmers as if they were unfledged 
angels. 

" Most remarkable children I ever saw. WhicH is which? " 
and Laurie bent like a well-sweep to examine the prodigies. 

" Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the 
girl, French fashion, so you can always tell. Besides, one has 
blue eyes and one brown. Kiss them, Uncle Teddy," said 
wicked Jo. 

" I 'm afraid they might n't like it," began Laurie, with un- 
usual timidity in such matters. 



LITTLE WOMEN 305 

" Of course they will ; they are used to it now. Do it this 
minute, sir ! " commanded Jo, fearing he might propose a 
proxy. 

Laurie screwed up his face, and obeyed with a gingerly peck 
at each little cheek that produced another laugh, and made the 
babies squeal. 

" There, I knew they did n't like it ! That 's the boy ; see 
him kick ; he hits out with his fists like a good one. Now then, 
young Brooke, pitch into a man of your own size, will you ? " 
cried Laurie, delighted with a poke in the face from a tiny 
fist, flapping aimlessly about. 

" He's to be named John Laurence, and the girl Margaret, 
after mother and grandmother. We shall call her Daisy, so 
as not to have two Megs, and I suppose the mannie will be 
Jack, unless we find a better name," said Amy, with aunt-like 
interest. 

" Name him demijohn, and call him ' Demi ' for short," said 
Laurie. 

" Daisy and Demi, just the thing ! I knew Teddy would 
do it," cried Jo, clapping her hands. 

Teddy certainly had done it that time, for the babies were 
" Daisy " and " Demi " to the end of the chapter. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

CALLS. 

" COME Jo, it 's time." 

"For what?" 

" You don't mean to say you have forgotten that you promised 
to make half a dozen calls with me to-day ? " 

" I Ve done a good many rash and foolish things in my life, 
but I don't think I ever was mad enough to say I 'd make six 
calls in one day, when a single one upsets me for a week." 

'' Yes, you did ; it was a bargain between us. I was to finish 



306 LITTLE WOMEN 

the crayon of Beth for you, and you were to go properly with 
me, and return our neighbors' visits." 

" If it was fair that was in the bond; and I stand to the 
letter of my bond, Shylock. There is a pile of clouds in the 
east ; it 's not fair, and I don't go." 

" Now, that 's shirking. It 's a lovely day, no prospect of rain, 
and you pride yourself on keeping promises ; so be honorable ; 
come and do your duty, and then be at peace for another six 
months." 

At that minute Jo was particularly absorbed in dressmaking ; 
for she was mantua-maker general to the family, and took espe- 
cial credit to herself because she could use a needle as well as 
a pen. It was very provoking to be arrested in the act of a first 
trying-on, and ordered out to make calls in her best array, on 
a warm July day. She hated calls of the formal sort, and never 
made any till Amy compelled her with a bargain, bribe, or 
promise. In the present instance, there was no escape ; and hav- 
ing clashed her scissors rebelliously, while protesting that she 
smelt thunder, she gave in, put away her work, and taking up 
her hat and gloves with an air of resignation, told Amy the 
victim was ready. 

" Jo March, you are perverse enough to provoke a saint ! 
You don't intend to make calls in that state, I hope," cried 
Amy, surveying her with amazement. 

" Why not ? I 'm neat and cool and comfortable ; quite proper 
for a dusty walk on a warm day. If people care more for my 
clothes than they do for me, I don't wish to see them. You can 
dress for both, and be as elegant as you please: it pays for 
you to be fine ; it does n't for me, and furbelows only worry me." 

" Oh dear ! " sighed Amy ; " now she 's in a contrary fit, 
and will drive me distracted before I can get her properly 
ready. I 'm sure it 's no pleasure to me to go to-day, but it 's 
a debt we owe society, and there 's no one to pay it but you and 
me. I '11 do anything for you, Jo, if you '11 only dress yourself 
nicely, and come and help me do the civil. You can talk so 
Well, look so aristocratic in your best things, and behave so 



LITTLE WOMEN 307 

beautifully, ff you try, that I 'm proud of you. I 'm afraid to 
go alone ; do come and take care of me." 

" You 're an artful little puss to flatter and wheedle your cross 
old sister in that way. The idea of my being aristocratic and 
well-bred, and your being afraid to go anywhere alone! I 
don't know which is the most absurd. Well, I '11 go if I must, 
and do my best. You shall be commander of the expedition, 
and I '11 obey blindly ; will that satisfy you ? " said Jo, with a 
sudden change from perversity to lamb-like submission. 

" You 're a perfect cherub ! Now put on all your best things, 
and I '11 tell you how to behave at each place, so that you will 
make a good impression. I want people to like you, and they 
would if you 'd only try to be a little more agreeable. Do 
your hair the pretty way, and put the pink rose in your bonnet ; 
it 's becoming, and you look too sober in your plain suit. Take 
your light gloves and the embroidered handkerchief. We '11 
stop at Meg's, and borrow her white sunshade, and then you 
can have my dove-colored one." 

While Amy dressed, she issued orders, and Jo obeyed them ; 
not without entering her protest, however, for she sighed as she 
rustled into her new organdie, frowned darkly at herself as 
she tied her bonnet strings in an irreproachable bow, wrestled 
viciously with pins as she put on her collar, wrinkled up her 
features generally as she shook out the handkerchief, whose 
embroidery was as irritating to her nose as the present mission 
was to her feelings ; and when she had squeezed her hands into 
tight gloves with three buttons and a tassel, as the last touch 
of elegance, she turned to Amy with an imbecile expression of 
countenance, saying meekly, 

" I 'm perfectly miserable ; but if you consider me presentable, 
I die happy." 

" You are highly satisfactory ; turn slowly round, and let 
me get a careful view." Jo revolved, and Amy gave a touch 
here and there, then fell back, with her head on one side, observ- 
ing graciously, " Yes, you '11 do ; your head is all I could ask, 
for that white bonnet with the rose is quite ravishing. Hold 



308 UTTLE WOMEN 

back your shoulders, and carry your hands easily, no matter 
if your gloves do pinch. There 's one thing you can do well, 
Jo, that is, wear a shawl I can't ; but it 's very nice to see 
you, and I 'm so glad Aunt March gave you that lovely one ; 
it's simple, but handsome, and those folds over the arm are 
really artistic. Is the point of my mantle in the middle, and 
have I looped my dress evenly? I like to show my boots, for 
my feet are pretty, though my nose is n't." 

" You are a thing of beauty and a joy forever," said Jo, 
looking through her hand with the air of a connoisseur at the 
blue feather against the gold hair. " Am I to drag my best 
dress through the dust, or loop it up, please, ma'am ? " 

" Hold it up when you walk, but drop it in the house ; the 
sweeping style suits you best, and you must learn to trail your 
skirts gracefully. You haven't half buttoned one cuff; do 
it at once. You '11 never look finished if you are not careful 
about the little details, for they make up the pleasing whole." 

Jo sighed, and proceeded to burst the buttons off her glove, 
in doing up her cuff; but at last both were ready, and sailed 
away, looking as " pretty as picters," Hannah said, as she hung 
out of the upper window to watch them. 

" Now, Jo dear, the Chesters consider themselves very ele- 
gant people, so I want you to put on your best deportment. 
Don't make any of your abrupt remarks, or do anything odd, 
will you? Just be calm, cool, and quiet, that's safe and 
ladylike; and you can easily do it for fifteen minutes," said 
Amy, as they approached the first place, having borrowed the 
white parasol and been inspected by Meg, with a baby on each 
arm. 

" Let me see. ' Calm, cool, and quiet,' yes, I think I can 
promise that. I Ve played the part of a prim young lady on 
the stage, and I '11 try it off. My powers are great, as you shall 
see ; so be easy in your mind, my child." 

Amy looked relieved, but naughty Jo took her at her word; 
for, during the first call, she sat with every limb gracefully 
composed, every fold correctly draped, calm as a summer sea, 



LITTLE WOMEN 309 

cool as a snow-bank, and as silent as a sphinx. In vain Mrs. 
Chester alluded to her " charming novel," and the Misses Ches- 
ter introduced parties, picnics, the opera, and the fashions ; each 
and all were answered by a smile, a bow, and a demure " Yes " 
or " No," with the chill on. In vain Amy telegraphed the 
word " Talk," tried to draw her out, and administered covert 
pokes with her foot. Jo sat as if blandly unconscious of it all, 
with deportment like Maud's face, " icily regular, splendidly 
null." 

" What a haughty, uninteresting creature that oldest Miss 
March is ! " was the unfortunately audible remark of one of 
the ladies, as the door closed upon their guests. Jo laughed 
noiselessly all though the hall, but Amy looked disgusted at 
the failure of her instructions, and very naturally laid the blame 
upon Jo. 

" How could you mistake me so ? I merely meant you to be 
properly dignified and composed, and you made yourself a 
perfect stock and stone. Try to be sociable at the Lambs', 
gossip as other girls do, and be interested in dress and flirta- 
tions and whatever nonsense comes up. They move in the 
best society, are valuable persons for us to know, and I would n't 
fail to make a good impression there for anything." 

" I '11 be agreeable ; I '11 gossip and giggle, and have horrors 
and raptures over any trifle you like. I rather enjoy this, and 
now I '11 imitate what is called ' a charming girl ; ' I can do it, 
for I have May Chester as a model, and I '11 improve upon her. 
See if the Lambs don't say, ' What a lively, nice creature that 
Jo March is ! '" 

Amy felt anxious, as well she might, for when Jo turned 
freakish there was no knowing where she would stop. Amy's 
face was a study when she saw her sister skim into the next 
drawing-room, kiss all the young ladies with effusion, beam 
graciously upon the young gentlemen, and join in the chat 
with a spirit which amazed the beholder. Amy was taken pos- 
session of by Mrs. Lamb, with whom she was a favorite, and 
forced to hear a long account of Lucretia's last attack, while 



310 LITTLE WOMEN 

three delightful young gentlemen hovered near, waiting for a 
pause when they might rush in and rescue her. So situated, 
she was powerless to check Jo, who seemed possessed by a 
spirit of mischief, and talked away as volubly as the old lady. 
A knot of heads gathered about her, and Amy strained her 
ears to hear what was going on ; for broken sentences filled her 
with alarm, round eyes and uplifted hands tormented her with 
curiosity, and frequent peals of laughter made her wild to share 
the fun. One may imagine her suffering on overhearing frag- 
ments of this sort of conversation : 

" She rides splendidly, who taught her ? " 

" No one ; she used to practise mounting, holding the reins, 
and sitting straight on an old saddle in a tree. Now she rides 
anything, for she does n't know what fear is, and the stable-man 
lets her have horses cheap, because she trains them to carry 
ladies so well. She has such a passion for it, I often tell her 
if everything else fails she can be a horse-breaker, and get her 
lining so." 

At this awful speech Amy contained herself with difficulty, 
for the impression was being given that she was rather a fast 
young lady, which was her especial aversion. But what could 
she do? for the old lady was in the middle of her story, and 
long before it was done Jo was off again, making more droll 
revelations and committing still more fearful blunders. 

" Yes, Amy was in despair that day, for all the good beasts 
were gone, and of three left, one was lame, one blind, and the 
other so balky that you had to put dirt in his mouth before he 
would start. Nice animal for a pleasure party, was n't it ? " 

" Which did she choose? " asked one of the laughing gentle- 
men, who enjoyed the subject. 

" None of them ; she heard of a young horse at the farmhouse 
over the river, and, though a lady had never ridden him, she 
resolved to try, because he was handsome and spirited. Her 
struggles were really pathetic; there was no one to bring 
the horse to the saddle, so she took the saddle to the horse, 
My dear creature, she actually rowed it over the river, put it 



LITTLE WOMEN 311 

on her head, and marched up to the barn to the utter amaze- 
ment of the old man ! " 

"Did she ride the horse?" 

"Of course she did, and had a capital time. I expected to 
see her brought home in fragments, but she managed him per- 
fectly, and was the life of the party." 

" Well, I call that plucky ! " and young Mr. Lamb turned an 
approving glance upon Amy, wondering what his mother could 
be saying to make the girl look so red and uncomfortable. 

She was still redder and more uncomfortable a moment after, 
when a sudden turn in the conversation introduced the subject 
of dress. One of the young ladies asked Jo where she got the 
pretty drab hat she wore to the picnic; and stupid Jo, instead 
of mentioning the place where it was bought two years ago, must 
needs answer, with unnecessary frankness, " Oh, Amy painted 
it ; you can't buy those soft shades, so we paint ours any color 
we like. It 's a great comfort to have an artistic sister." 

" Is n't that an original idea ? " cried Miss Lamb, who found 
Jo great fun. 

" That 's nothing compared to some of her brilliant per- 
formances. There 's nothing the child can't do. Why, she 
wanted a pair of blue boots for Sallie's party, so she just painted 
her soiled white ones the loveliest shade of sky-blue you ever 
saw, and they looked exactly like satin," added Jo, with an 
air of pride in her sister's accomplishments that exasperated 
Amy till she felt that it would be a relief to throw her card- 
case at her. 

" We read a story of yours the other day, and enjoyed it 
very much," observed the elder Miss Lamb, wishing to compli- 
ment the literary lady, who did not look the character just then, 
it must be confessed. 

Any mention of her " works " always had a bad effect upon 
Jo, who either grew rigid and looked offended, or changed the 
subject with a brusque remark, as now. " Sorry you could 
find nothing better to read. I write that rubbish because it 



312 LITTLE WOMEN 

sells, and ordinary people like it. Are you going to New York 
this winter ? " 

As Miss Lamb had " enjoyed " the story, this speech was not 
exactly grateful or complimentary. The minute it was made 
Jo saw her mistake; but fearing to make the matter worse, 
suddenly remembered that it was for her to make the first move 
toward departure, and did so with an abruptness that left three 
people with half-finished sentences in their mouths, 

" Amy, we must go. Good-by, dear ; do come and see us ; 
we are pining for a visit. I don't dare to ask you, Mr. Lamb ; 
but if you should come, I don't think I shall have the heart to 
send you away." 

Jo said this with such a droll imitation of May Chester's 
gushing style that Amy got out of the room as rapidly as pos- 
sible, feeling a strong desire to laugh and cry at the same time. 

" Did n't I do that well? " asked Jo, with a satisfied air, as 
they walked away. 

" Nothing could have been worse," was Amy's crushing reply. 
" What possessed you to tell those stories about my saddle, and 
the hats and boots, and all the rest of it ? " 

" Why, it 's funny, and amuses people. They know we are 
poor, so it 's no use pretending that we have grooms, buy three 
or four hats a season, and have things as easy and fine as they 
do." 

" You need n't go and tell them all our little shifts, and 
expose our poverty in that perfectly unnecessary way. You 
have n't a bit of proper pride, and never will learn when to 
hold your tongue and when to speak," said Amy despairingly. 

Poor Jo looked abashed, and silently chafed the end of her 
nose with the stiff handkerchief, as if performing a penance 
for her misdemeanors. 

" How shall I behave here ? " she asked, as they approached 
the third mansion. 

"Just as you please; I wash my hands of you " was Amy's 
short answer. 

"Then I '11 enjoy myself. The boys are at home, and we 'II 



LITTLE WOMEN 313 

have a comfortable time. Goodness knows I need a little change, 
for elegance has a bad effect upon my constitution," returned 
Jo gruffly, being disturbed by her failures to suit. 

An enthusiastic welcome from three big boys and several 
pretty children speedily soothed her ruffled feelings ; and, leav- 
ing Amy to entertain the hostess and Mr. Tudor, who happened 
to be calling likewise, Jo devoted herself to the young folks, 
and found the change refreshing. She listened to college stories 
with deep interest, caressed pointers and poodles without a 
murmur, agreed heartily that " Tom Brown was a brick/' re- 
gardless of the improper form of praise; and when one lad 
proposed a visit to his turtle tank, she went with an alacrity 
which caused mamma to smile upon her as that motherly lady 
settled the cap which was left in a ruinous condition by filial 
hugs, bearlike but affectionate, and dearer to her than the most 
faultless coiffure from the hands of an inspired French- 
woman. 

Leaving her sister to her own devices, Amy proceeded to 
enjoy herself to her heart's content. Mr. Tudor's uncle had 
married an English lady who was third cousin to a living lord, 
and Amy regarded the whole family with great respect; for, 
in spite of her American birth and breeding she possessed that 
reverence for titles which haunts the best of us, that un- 
acknowledged loyalty to the early faith in kings which set the 
most democratic nation under the sun in a ferment at the com- 
ing of a royal yellow-haired laddie, some years ago, and which 
still has something to do with the love the young country bears 
the old, like that of a big son for an imperious little mother, 
who held him while she could, and let him go with a farewell 
scolding when he rebelled. But even the satisfaction of talking 
with a distant connection of the British nobility did not render 
Amy forgetful of time ; and when the proper number of minutes 
had passed, she reluctantly tore herself from this aristocratifc 
society, and looked about for Jo fervently hoping that her in- 
corrigible sister would not be found in any position which 
should bring disgrace upon the name of March. 



3 i4 LITTLE WOMEN 

It might have been worse, but Amy considered it bad; for 
Jo sat on the grass, with an encampment of boys about her, and 
a dirty- footed dog reposing on the skirt of her state and festival 
dress, as she related one of Laurie's pranks to her admiring 
audience. One small child was poking turtles with Amy's 
cherished parasol, a second was eating gingerbread over Jo's 
best bonnet, and a third playing ball with her gloves. But all 
were enjoying themselves ; and when Jo collected her damaged 
property to go, her escort accompanied her, begging her to 
come again, " it was such fun to hear about Laurie's larks." 

" Capital boys, are n't they ? I feel quite young and brisk 
again after that," said Jo, strolling along with her hands behind 
her, partly from habit, partly to conceal the bespattered parasol. 

" Why do you always avoid Mr. Tudor ? " asked Amy, wisely 
refraining from any comment upon Jo's dilapidated appearance. 

" Don't like him ; he puts on airs, snubs his sisters, worries 
his father, and does n't speak respectfully of his mother. Laurie 
says he is fast, and / don't consider him a desirable acquaint- 
ance ; so I let him alone." 

" You might treat him civilly, at least. You gave him a 
cool nod; and just now you bowed and smiled in the politest 
way to Tommy Chamberlain, whose father keeps a grocery 
store. If you had just reversed the nod and the bow, it would 
have been right," said Amy reprovingly. 

" No, it would n't," returned perverse Jo ; "I neither like, 
respect, nor admire Tudor, though his grandfather's uncle's 
nephew's niece was third cousin to a lord. Tommy is poor 
and bashful and good and very clever ; I think well of him, and 
like to show that I do, for he is a gentleman in spite of the 
brown-paper parcels." 

" It 's no use trying to argue with you," began Amy. 

" Not the least, my dear," interrupted Jo ; " so let us look 
amiable, and drop a card here, as the Kings are evidently out, 
for which I 'm deeply grateful." 

The family card-case having done its duty, the girls walked 



LITTLE WOMEN 315 

on, and Jo uttered another thanksgiving on reaching the fifth 
house, and being told that the young ladies were engaged. 

" Now let us go home, and never mind Aunt March to-day. 
We can run down there any time, and it 's really a pity to 
trail through the dust in our best bibs and tuckers, when we 
are tired and cross." 

" Speak for yourself, if you please. Aunt likes to have us 
pay her the compliment of coming in style, and making a formal 
call ; it 's a little thing to do, but it gives her pleasure, and I 
don't believe it will hurt your things half so much as letting 
dirty dogs and clumping boys spoil them. Stoop down, and 
let me take the crumbs off your bonnet." 

" What a good girl you are, Amy ! " said Jo, with a repentant 
glance from her own damaged costume to that of her sister, 
which was fresh and spotless still. " I wish it was as easy for 
me to do little things to please people as it is for you. I think 
of them, but it takes too much time to do them; so I wait for 
a chance to confer a great favor, and let the small ones slip; 
but they tell best in the end, I fancy." 

Amy smiled, and was mollified at once, saying with a maternal 
air, 

" Women should learn to be agreeable, particularly poor ones ; 
for they have no other way of repaying the kindnesses they re- 
ceive. If you 'd remember that, and practise it, you 'd be better 
liked than I am, because there is more of you." 

" I 'm a crotchety old thing, and always shall be, but I 'm 
willing to own that you are right ; only it 's easier for me to 
risk my life for a person than to be pleasant to him when I 
don't feel like it. It 's a great misfortune to have such strong 
likes and dislikes, is n't it? " 

" It 's a greater not to be able to hide them. I don't mind 
saying that I don't approve of Tudor any more than you do; 
but I 'm not called upon to tell him so ; neither are you, and 
there is no use in making yourself disagreeable because he is." 

" But I think girls ought to show when they disapprove of 
young men: and how can they do it except by their manners? 



316 LITTLE WOMEN 

Preaching does not do any good, as I know to my sorrow, 
since I 've had Teddy to manage ; but there are many little ways 
in which I can influence him without a word, and I say we 
ought to do it to others if we can." 

" Teddy is a remarkable boy, and can't be taken as a sample 
of other boys," said Amy, in a tone of solemn conviction, which 
would have convulsed the " remarkable boy," if he had heard 
it. " If we were belles, or women of wealth and position, we 
might do something, perhaps; but for us to frown at one set 
of young gentlemen because we don't approve of them, and 
smile upon another set because we do, would n't have a particle 
of effect, and we should only be considered odd and puritanical." 

" So we are to countenance things and people which we detest, 
merely because we are not belles and millionaires, are we? 
That 's a nice sort of morality." 

" I can't argue about it, I only know that it 's the way of 
the world; and people who set themselves against it only get 
laughed at for their pains. I don't like reformers, and I hope 
you will never try to be one." 

" I do like them, and I shall be one if I can ; for, in spite 
of the laughing the world would never get on without them. We 
can't agree about that, for you belong to the old set, and I to 
the new : you will get on the best, but I shall have the liveliest 
time of it. I should rather enjoy the brickbats and hooting, I 
think." 

"Well, compose yourself now, and don't worry aunt with 
your new ideas." 

" I '11 try not to, but I 'm always possessed to burst out with 
some particularly blunt speech or revolutionary sentiment be- 
fore her ; it 's my doom, and I can't help it." 

They found Aunt Carrol with the old lady, both absorbed in 
some very interesting subject; but they dropped it as the girls 
came in, with a conscious look which betrayed that they had 
been talking about their nieces. Jo was not in a good humor, 
and the perverse fit returned; but Amy, who had virtuously 
done her duty, kept her temper, and pleased everybody, was in 



LITTLE WOMEN 317 

e most angelic frame of mind. This amiable spirit was felt at 
once, and both aunts " my deared " her affectionately, looking 
what they afterwards said emphatically, - " That child im- 
proves every day." 

" Are you going to help about the fair, dear ? " asked Mrs. 
Carrol, as Amy sat down beside her with the confiding air 
elderly people like so well in the young. 

" Yes, aunt. Mrs. Chester asked me if I would, and I of- 
fered to tend a table, as I have nothing but my time to give." 

" I 'm not," put in Jo decidedly. " I hate to be patronized, 
and the Chesters think it 's a great favor to allow us to help 
with their highly connected fair. I wonder you consented, 
Amy : they only want you to work." 

" I am willing to work : it 's for the f reedmen as well as the 
Chesters, and I think it very kind of them to let me share the 
labor and the fun. Patronage does not trouble me when it is 
well meant." 

" Quite right and proper. I like your grateful spirit, my 
dear ; it 's a pleasure to help people who appreciate our efforts : 
some do not, and that is trying," observed Aunt March, looking 
over her spectacles at Jo, who sat apart, rocking herself, with a 
somewhat morose expression. 

If Jo had only known what a great happiness was wavering 
in the balance for one of them, she would have turned dovelike 
in a minute ; but, unfortunately, we don't have windows in our 
breasts, and cannot see what goes on in the minds of our 
friends; better for us that we cannot as a general thing, but 
now and then it would be such a comfort, such a saving of 
time and temper. -By her next speech, Jo deprived herself of 
several years of pleasure, and received a timely lesson in the 
art of holding her tongue. 

" I don't like favors ; they oppress and make me feel like 
a slave. I 'd rather do everything for myself, and be perfectly 
independent." 

" Ahem ! " coughed Aunt Carrol softly, with a look at Aunt 
March. 



3i8 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I told you so," said Aunt March, with a decided nod to 
Aunt Carrol. 

Mercifully unconscious of what she had done, Jo sat with 
her nose in the air, and a revolutionary aspect which was any- 
thing but inviting. 

" Do you speak French, dear ? " asked Mrs. Carrol, laying 
her hand on Amy's. 

" Pretty well, thanks to Aunt March, who lets Esther talk 
to me as often as I like," replied Amy, with a grateful look, 
which caused the old lady to smile affably. 

" How are you about languages ? " asked Mrs. Carrol of Jo. 

" Don't know a word ; I 'm very stupid about studying any- 
thing ; can't bear French, it 's such a slippery, silly sort of 
language," was the brusque reply. 

Another look passed between the ladies, and Aunt March 
said to Amy, " You are quite strong and well, now, dear, I 
believe ? Eyes don't trouble you any more, do they ? " 

" Not at all, thank you, ma'am. I 'm very well, and mean to 
do great things next winter, so that I may be ready for Rome, 
whenever that joyful time arrives." 

" Good girl ; You deserve to go, and I 'm sure you will some 
day," said Aunt March, with an approving pat on the head, as 
Amy picked up her ball for her. 

" Cross-patch, draw the latch, 

Sit by the fire and spin," 

squalled Polly, bending down from his perch on the back of 
her chair to peep into Jo's face, with such a comical air of 
impertinent inquiry that it was impossible to help laughing. 

" Most observing bird," said the old lady. 

" Come and take a walk, my dear ? " cried Polly, hopping 
-toward the china-closet, with a look suggestive of lump-sugar. 

" Thank you, I will. Come, Amy ; " and Jo brought the visit 
to an end, feeling more strongly than ever that calls did have 
a bad effect upon her constitution. She shook hands in a 
gentlemanly manner, but Amy kissed both aunts, and the girls 
departed, leaving behind them the impression of shadow and 



LITTLE WOMEN 319 

sunshine ; which impression caused Aunt March to say. as they 
vanished, 

" You 'd better do it, Mary ; I '11 supply the money," and 
Aunt Carrol to reply decidedly, " I certainly will, if her father 
and mother consent." 



CHAPTER XXX. 

CONSEQUENCES. 

MRS. CHESTER'S fair was so very elegant and select that it 
was considered a great honor by the young ladies of the neigh- 
borhood to be invited to take a table, and every one was much 
interested in the matter. Amy was asked, but Jo was not, which 
was fortunate for all parties, as her elbows were decidedly 
akimbo at this period of her life, and it took a good many hard 
knocks to teach her how to get on easily. The " haughty, un- 
interesting creature," was let severely alone; but Amy's talent 
and taste were duly complimented by the offer of the art-table, 
and she exerted herself to prepare and secure appropriate and 
valuable contributions to it. 

Everything went on smoothly till the day before the fair 
opened ; then there occurred one of the little skirmishes which 
it is almost impossible to avoid, when some five and twenty 
women, old and young, with all their private piques and pre- 
judices, try to work together. 

May Chester was rather jealous of Amy because the latter 
\vas a greater favorite than herself ; and, just at this time, sev- 
eral trifling circumstances occurred to increase the feeling. 
Amy's dainty pen-and-ink work entirely eclipsed May's painted 
vases, that was one thorn ; then the all-conquering Tudor had 
danced four times with Amy, at a late party, and only once 
with May, that was thorn number two ; but the chief griev- 
ance that rankled in her soul, and gave her an excuse for her 
unfriendly conduct was a rumor which some obliging gossip 



320 LITTLE WOMEN 

had whispered to her, that the March girls had made fun of her 
at the Lambs'. All the blame of this should have fallen upon Jo, 
for her naughty imitation had been too lifelike to escape detec- 
tion, and the frolicsome Lambs had permitted the joke to 
escape. No hint of this had reached the culprits, however, and 
Amy's dismay can be imagined, when, the very evening before 
the fair, as she was putting the last touches to her pretty table, 
Mrs. Chester, who, of course, resented the supposed ridicule 
of her daughter, said, in a bland tone, but with a cold look, 

" I find, dear, that there is some feeling among the young 
ladies about giving this table to any one but my girls. As this 
is the most prominent, and some say the most attractive table 
of all, and they are the chief getters-up of the fair, it is thought 
best for them to take this place. I 'm sorry, but I know you 
are too sincerely interested in the cause to mind a little per- 
sonal disappointment, and you shall have another table if you 
like." 

Mrs. Chester had fancied beforehand that it would be easy 
to deliver this little speech ; but when the time came, she found 
it rather difficult to utter it naturally, with Amy's unsuspicious 
eyes looking straight at her, full of surprise and trouble. 

Amy felt that there was something behind this, but could 
not guess what, and said quietly, feeling hurt, and showing that 
she did, 

" Perhaps you had rather I took no table at all ? " 

" Now, my dear don't have any ill feeling, I beg ; it's merely 
a matter of expediency, you see ; my girls will naturally take the 
lead, and this table is considered their proper place. / think it 
very appropriate to you, and feel very grateful for your efforts 
to make it so pretty; but we must give up our private wishes, 
of course, and I will see that you have a good place elsewhere. 
Would n't you like the flower-table ? The little girls undertook 
it, but they are discouraged. You could make a charming thing 
of it, and the flower-table is always attractive, you know." 

" Especially to gentlemen," added May, with a look which 
enlightened Amy as to one cause of her sudden fall from 



LITTLE WOMEN 321 

favor. She colored angrily, but took no other notice of that 

girlish sarcasm, and answered, with unexpected amiability, 

" It shall be as you please Mrs. Chester, I '11 give up my place 

here at once, and attend to the flowers, if you like." 

" You can put your own things on your own table, if you pre- 
fer," began May, feeling a little conscience-stricken, as she 
looked at the pretty racks, the painted shells, and quaint il- 
luminations Amy had so carefully made and so gracefully ar- 
ranged. She meant it kindly, but Amy mistook her meaning, 
and said quickly, 

" Oh, certainly, if they are in your way ; " and sweeping her 
contributions into her apron, pell-mell, she walked off, feeling 
that herself and her works of art had been insulted past for- 
giveness. 

" Now she 's mad. Oh, dear, I wish I had n't asked you to 
speak, mamma," said May, looking disconsolately at the empty 
spaces on her table. 

" Girls' quarrels are soon over," returned her mother, feel- 
ing a trifle ashamed of her own part in this one, as well she 
might. 

The little girls hailed Amy and her treasures with delight, 
which cordial reception somewhat soothed her perturbed spirit, 
and she fell to work, determined to succeed florally, if she could 
not artistically. But everything seemed against her : it was late, 
and she was tired ; every one was too busy with their own af- 
fairs to help her ; and the little girls were only hindrances, for 
the dears fussed and chattered like so many magpies, making 
a great deal of confusion in their artless efforts to preserve the 
most perfect order. The evergreen arch wouldn't stay firm 
after she got it up, but wiggled and threatened to tumble down 
on her head when the hanging baskets were filled ; her best tile 
got a splash of water, which left a sepia tear on the Cupid *s 
cheek; she bruised her hands with hammering, and got cold 
working in a draught, which last affliction filled her with ap- 
prehensions tor the morrow, Any girl-reader who has suffered 



322 LITTLE WOMEN 

like 3.fflictions will sympathize with poor Amy, and wish her 
well through her task. 

There was great indignation at home when she told her story 
that evening. Her mother said it was a shame, but told her 
she had done right ; Beth declared she would n't go to the fair 
at all; and Jo demanded why she didn't take all her pretty 
things and leave those mean people to get on without her. 

" Because they are mean is no reason why I should be. I 
hate such things, and though I think I 've a right to be hurt, 
I don't intend to show it. They will feel that more than angry 
speeches or huffy actions, won't they, Marmee ? " 

" That 's the right spirit, my dear ; a kiss for a blow is always 
best, though it 's not very easy to give it sometimes," said her 
mother, with the air of one who had learned the difference 
between preaching and practising. 

In spite of various very natural temptations to resent and 
retaliate, Amy adhered to her resolution all the next day, bent 
on conquering her enemy by kindness. She began well, thanks 
to a silent reminder that came to her unexpectedly, but most 
opportunely. As she arranged her table that morning, while the 
little girls were in an ante-room filling the baskets, she took 
up her pet production, a little book, the antique cover of 
which her father had found among his treasures, and in which, 
on leaves of vellum, she had beautifully illuminated different 
texts. As she turned the pages, rich in dainty devices, with 
very pardonable pride, her eye fell upon one verse that made 
her stop and think. Framed in a brilliant scroll-work of scarlet, 
blue, and gold, with little spirits of good- will helping one an- 
other up and down among the thorns and flowers, were the 
words, " Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." 

" I ought, but I don't," thought Amy, as her eye went from 
the bright page to May's discontented face behind the big vases, 
that could not hide the vacancies her pretty work had once 
filled. Amy stood a minute, turning the leaves in her hand, 
reading on each some sweet rebuke for all heart-burnings and 
uncharitableness of spirit. Many wise and true sermons are 



LITTLE WOMEN 323 

preached us every day by unconscious ministers in street, school, 
office, or home; even a fair-table may become a pulpit, if it 
can offer the good and helpful words which are never out of 
season. Amy's conscience preached her a little sermon from 
that text, then and there ; and she did what many of us do not 
always do, took the sermon to heart, and straightway put 
it in practice. 

A group of girls were standing about May's table, admiring 
the pretty things, and talking over the change of saleswomen. 
They dropped their voices, but Amy knew they were speaking 
of her, hearing one side of the story and judging accordingly. 
It was not pleasant, but a better spirit had come over her, and 
presently a chance offered for proving it. She heard May 
say sorrowfully, 

" It 's too bad, for there is no time to make other things, and 
I don't want to fill up with odds and ends. The table was just 
complete then : now it 's spoilt." 

" I dare say she 'd put them back if you asked her," sug- 
gested some one. 

" How could I after all the fuss ? " began May, but she did 
not finish, for Amy's voice came across the hall, saying pleas- 
antly, 

" You may have them, and welcome, without asking, if you 
want them. I was just thinking I 'd offer to put them back, 
for they belong to your table rather than mine. Here they are ; 
please take them, and forgive me if I was hasty in carrying 
them away last night." 

As she spoke, Amy returned her contribution, with a nod 
and a smile, and hurried away again, feeling that it was easier 
to do a friendly thing than it was to stay and be thanked for it. 

" Now, I call that lovely of her, don't you ? " cried one girl. 

May's answer was inaudible ; but another young lady, whose 
temper was evidently a little soured by making lemonade, added, 
with a disagreeable laugh, " Very lovely ; for she knew she 
would n't sell them at her own table." 

Now, that was hard ; when we make little sacrifices we like 



324 LITTLE WOMEN 

to have them appreciated, at least ; and for a minute Amy was 
sorry she had done it, feeling that virtue was not always its 
own reward. But it is, as she presently discovered ; for her 
spirits began to rise, and her table to blossom under her skilful 
hands ; the girls were very kind, and that one little act seemed 
to have cleared the atmosphere amazingly. 

It was a very long day, and a hard one to Amy, as she sat 
behind her table, often quite alone, for the little girls deserted 
very soon: few cared to buy flowers in summer, and her 
bouquets began to droop long before night. 

The art-table was the most attractive in the room; there 
was a crowd about it all day long, and the tenders were con- 
stantly flying to and fro with important faces and rattling 
money-boxes. Amy often looked wistfully across, longing to 
be there, where she felt at home and happy, instead of in a 
corner with nothing to do. It might seem no hardship to some 
of us ; but to a pretty, blithe young girl, it was not only tedious, 
but very trying; and the thought of being found there in the 
evening by her family, and Laurie and his friends, made it a 
real martyrdom. 

She did not go home till night, and then she looked so pale 
and quiet that they knew the day had been a hard one, though 
she made no complaint, and did not even tell what she had done. 
Her mother gave her an extra cordial cup of tea, Beth helped 
her dress, and made a charming little wreath for her hair, while 
Jo astonished her family by getting herself up with unusual 
care, and hinting darkly that the tables were about to be turned. 

" Don't do anything rude, pray, Jo. I won't have any fuss 
made, so let it all pass, and behave yourself," begged Amy, as 
she departed early, hoping to find a reinforcement of flowers to 
refresh her poor little table. 

" I merely intend to make myself entrancingly agreeable to 
every one I know, and to keep them in your corner as .long as 
possible. Teddy and his boys will lend a hand, and we '11 have 
a good time yet," returned Jo, leaning over the gate to watch 



LITTLE WOMEN 325 

for Laurie. Presently the familiar tramp was heard in the 
dusk, and she ran out to meet him. 
"Is that my boy?" 

" As sure as this is my girl !'" and Laurie tucked her hand 
under his arm, with the air of a man whose every wish was 
gratified. 

" O Teddy, such doings ! " and Jo told Amy's wrongs with 
sisterly zeal. 

" A flock of our fellows are going to drive over by and by, 
and I '11 be hanged if I don't make them buy every flower she 's 
got, and camp down before her table afterward," said Laurie, 
espousing her cause with warmth. 

" The flowers are not at all nice, Amy says, and the fresh 
ones may not arrive in time. I don't wish to be unjust or 
suspicious, but I should n't wonder if they never came at all. 
When people do one mean thing they are very likely to do 
another," observed Jo, in a disgusted tone. 

" Did n't Hayes give you the best out of our gardens ? I 
told him to." 

" I did n't know that ; he forgot, I suppose ; and, as your 
grandpa was poorly, I didn't like to worry him by asking, 
though I did want some." 

" Now, Jo, how could you think there was any need of asking ! 
They are just as much yours as mine. Don't we always go 
halves in everything ? " began Laurie, in the tone that always 
made Jo turn thorny. 

" Gracious, I hope not ! half of some of your things would n't 
suit me at all. But we must n't stand philandering here ; I 've 
got to help Amy, so you go and make yourself splendid; and 
if you '11 be so very kind as to let Hayes take a few nice flowers 
up to the Hall, I '11 bless you forever." 

" Could n't you do it now ? " asked Laurie, so suggestively 
that Jo shut the gate in his face with inhospitable haste, and 
called through the bars, " Go away, Teddy ; I 'm busy." 

Thanks to the conspirators, the tables were turned that night ; 
jfor Hayes sent up a wilderness of flowers, with a lovely basket, 



326 LITTLE WOMEN 

arranged in his best manner, for a centerpiece ; then the March 
family turned out en masse, and Jo exerted herself to some pur- 
pose, for people not only came, but stayed, laughing at her 
nonsense, admiring Amy's taste, and apparently enjoying them- 
selves very much. Laurie and his friends gallantly threw them- 
selves into the breach, bought up the bouquets, encamped before 
the table, and made that corner the liveliest spot in the room. 
Amy was in her element now, and, out of gratitude, if nothing 
more, was as sprightly and gracious as possible, coming to the 
conclusion, about that time, that virtue was its own reward 
after all. 

Jo behaved herself with exemplary propriety ; and when Amy 
was happily surrounded by her guard of honor, Jo circulated 
about the hall, picking up various bits of gossip, which en- 
lightened her upon the subject of the Chester change of base. 
She reproached herself for her share of the ill-feeling, and 
resolved to exonerate Amy as soon as possible; she also dis- 
covered what Amy had done about the things in the morning, 
and considered her a model of magnanimity. As she passed 
the art-table, she glanced over it for her sister's things, but 
saw no signs of them. " Tucked away out of sight, I dare say," 
thought Jo, who could forgive her own wrongs, but hotly re- 
sented any insult offered to her family. 

" Good evening, Miss Jo. How does Amy get on ? " asked 
May, with a conciliatory air, for she wanted to show that she 
also could be generous. 

" She has sold everything she had that was worth selling, 
and now she is enjoying herself. The flower-table is always 
attractive, you know, ' especially to gentlemen.' " 

Jo could n't resist giving that little slap, but May took it 
so meekly she regretted it a minute after, and fell to praising 
the great vases, which still remained unsold. 

" Is Amy's illumination anywhere about ? I took a fancy to 
buy that for father," said Jo, very anxious to learn the fate 
of her sister's work. 

"Everything of Amy's sold long ago; I took care that the 






LITTLE WOMEN 327 

right people saw them, and they made a nice little sum of 
money for us," returned May, who had overcome sundry small 
temptations, as well as Amy, that day. 

Much gratified, Jo rushed back to tell the good news; and 
Amy looked both touched and surprised by the report of May's 
words and manner. 

" Now, gentlemen, I want you to go and do your duty by the 
other tables as generously as you have by mine especially 
the art-table," she said, ordering out " Teddy's Own," as the 
girls called the college friends. 

"'Charge, Chester, charge!' is the motto for that table; 
but do your duty like men, and you '11 get your money's worth 
of art in every sense of the word," said the irrepressible Jo, 
as the devoted phalanx prepared to take the field. 

" To hear is to obey, but March is fairer far than May," 
said little Parker, making a frantic effort to be both witty and 
tender, and getting promptly quenched by Laurie, who said. 
" Very well, my son, for a small boy ! " and walked him off, 
with a paternal pat on the head. 

" Buy the vases," whispered Amy to Laurie, as a final heap- 
ing of coals of fire on her enemy's head. 

To May's great delight, Mr. Laurence not only bought the 
vases, but pervaded the hall with one under each arm. The 
other gentlemen speculated with equal rashness in all sorts of 
frail trifles, and wandered helplessly about afterward, burdened 
with wax flowers, painted fans, filigree portfolios, and other 
useful and appropriate purchases. 

Aunt Carrol was there, heard the story, looked pleased, and 
said something to Mrs. March in a corner, which made the 
latter lady beam with satisfaction, and watch Amy with a face 
full of mingled pride and anxiety, though she did not betray 
the cause of her pleasure till several days later. 

The fair was pronounced a success; and when May bade 
Amy good night, she did not " gush " as usual, but gave her 
an affectionate kiss, and a look which said, " Forgive and for- 
get." That satisfied Amy ; and when she got home she found 



328 LITTLE WOMEN 

the vases paraded on the parlor chimney-piece, with a great 
bouquet in each. " The reward of merit for a magnanimous 
March," as Laurie announced with a flourish. 

" You Ve a deal more principle and generosity and nobleness 
of character than I ever gave you credit for, Amy. You Ve 
behaved sweetly, and I respect you with all my heart," said 
Jo warmly, as they brushed their hair together late that night. 

" Yes, we all do, and love her for being so ready to forgive. 
It must have been dreadfully hard, after working so long, and 
setting your heart on selling your own pretty things. I don't 
believe I could have done it as kindly as you did," added Beth 
from her pillow. 

" Why, girls, you need n't praise me so ; I only did as I 'd 
be done by. You laugh at me when I say I want to be a lady, 
but I mean a true gentlewoman in mind and manners, and I 
try to do it as far as I know how. I can't explain exactly, but 
I want to be above the little meannesses and follies and faults 
that spoil so many women. I 'm far from it now, but I do my 
best, and hope in time to be what mother is." 

Amy spoke earnestly, and Jo said, with a cordial hug, 

" I understand now what you mean, and I '11 never laugh at 
you again. You are getting on faster than you think, and I '11 
take lessons of you in true politeness, for you 've learned the 
secret, I believe. Try away, deary ; you '11 get your reward 
some day, and no one will be more delighted than I shall." 

A week later Amy did get her reward, and poor Jo found it 
hard to be delighted. A letter came from Aunt Carrol, and 
Mrs. March's face was illuminated to such a degree, when she 
read it, that Jo and Beth, who were with her, demanded what 
the glad tidings were. 

"Aunt Carrol is going abroad next month, and wants " 

" Me to go with her! " burst in Jo, flying out of her chair 
in an uncontrollable rapture. 

" No, dear, not you ; it 's Amy." 

" O mother ! she 's too young ; it 's my turn first. I 've wanted 



LITTLE WOMEN 329 

it so long it would do me so much good, and be so altogether 
splendid I must go." 

" I 'm afraid it 's impossible, Jo. Aunt says Amy, decidedly, 
and it is not for us to dictate when she offers such a favor." 

" It 's always so. Amy has all the fun and I have all the 
work. It is n't fair, oh, it is n't fair ; " cried Jo passionately. 

" I 'm afraid it is partly your own fault, dear. When Aunt 
spoke to me the other day, she regretted your blunt manners and 
too independent spirit; and here she writes, as if quoting 
something you had said, ' I planned at first to ask Jo ; but as 
" favors burden her," and she " hates French," I think I won't 
venture to invite her. Amy is more docile, will make a good 
companion for Flo, and receive gratefully any help the trip 
may give her.' " 

" Oh, my tongue, my abominable tongue ! why can't I learn 
to keep it quiet ? " groaned Jo, remembering words which had 
been her undoing. When she had heard the explanation of the 
quoted phrases, Mrs. March said sorrowfully, 

" I wish you could have gone, but there is no hope of it this 
time; so try to bear it cheerfully, and don't sadden Amy's 
pleasure by reproaches or regrets." 

" I '11 try," said Jo, winking hard, as she knelt down to pick 
up the basket she had joyfully upset. " I '11 take a leaf out of 
her book, and try not only to seem glad, but to be so, and not 
grudge her one minute of happiness ; but it won't be easy, for 
it is a dreadful disappointment ; " and poor Jo bedewed the little 
fat pincushion she held with several very bitter tears. 

" Jo, dear, I 'm very selfish, but I could n't spare you, and 
I 'm glad you are not going quite yet," whispered Beth, embrac- 
ing her, basket and all, with such a clinging touch and loving 
face, that Jo felt comforted in spite of the sharp regret that 
made her want to box her own ears, and humbly beg Aunt 
Carrol to burden her with this favor, and see how gratefully 
she would bear it. 

By the time Amy came in, Jo was able to take her part in the 
family jubilation; not quite as heartily as usual, perhaps, 



330 LITTLE WOMEN 

without repinings at Amy's good fortune. The young lady 
herself received the news as tidings of great joy, went about in 
a solemn sort of rapture, and began to sort her colors and pack 
her pencils that evening, leaving such trifles as clothes, money, 
and passports to those less absorbed in visions of art than 
herself. 

" It is n't a mere pleasure trip to me, girls," she said 
impressively, as she scraped her best palette. " It will decide 
my career for if I have any genius, I shall find it out in Rome, 
and will do something to prove it." 

" Suppose you have n't ? " said Jo, sewing away, with red eyes, 
at the new collars which were to be handed over to Amy. 

" Then I shall come home and teach drawing for my living," 
replied the aspirant for fame, with philosophic composure ; but 
she made a wry face at the prospect, and scratched away at her 
palette as if bent on vigorous measures before she gave up 
her hopes. 

" No, you won't ; you hate hard work, and you '11 marry some 
rich man, and come home to sit in the lap of luxury all your 
days," said Jo. 

" Your predictions sometimes come to pass, but I don't 
believe 'that one will. I 'm sure I wish it would, for if I can't 
be an artist myself, I should like to be able to help those who 
are," said Amy, smiling, as if the part of Lady Bountiful would 
suit her better than that of a poor drawing- teacher. 

" Hum ! " said Jo, with a sigh ; " if you wish it you '11 have it, 
for your wishes are always granted mine never." 

" Would you like to go ? " asked Amy, thoughtfully patting 
her nose with her knife. 

"Rather!" 

" Well, in a year or two I '11 send for you, and we '11 dig in the 
Forum for relics, and carry out all the plans we Ve made so 
many times." 

" Thank you ; I '11 remind you of your promise when that 
joyful day comes, if it ever does," returned Jo, accepting the 
vague but magnificent offer as gratefully as she could. 



LITTLE WOMEN 331 

There was not much time for preparation, and the house was 
in a ferment till Amy was off. Jo bore up very well till the last 
flutter of blue ribbon vanished, when she retired to her refuge, 
the garret, and cried till she could n't cry any more. Amy 
likewise bore up stoutly till the steamer sailed ; then, just as the 
gangway was about to be withdrawn, it suddenly came over 
her that a whole ocean was soon to roll between her and those 
who loved her best, and she clung to Laurie, the last lingerer, 
saying with a sob, 

" Oh, take care of them for me ; and if anything should 
happen " 

" I will, dear, I will ; and if anything happens, I '11 come and 
comfort you," whispered Laurie, little dreaming that he would 
be called upon to keep his word. 

So Amy sailed away to find the old world, which is always 
new and beautiful to young eyes, while her father and friend 
watched her from the shore, fervently hoping that none but 
gentle fortunes would befall the happy-hearted girl, who waved 
her hand to them till they could see nothing but the summer 
sunshine dazzling on the sea. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. 

" LONDON. 

" DEAREST PEOPLE, 

" Here I really sit at a front window of the Bath Hotel. 
Piccadilly. It 's not a fashionable place, but uncle stopped here 
years ago, and won't go anywhere else ; however, we don't mean 
to stay long, so it 's no great matter. Oh, I can't begin to tell 
you how I enjoy it all ! I never can, so I '11 only give you bits 
out of my note-book, for I 've done nothing but sketch and 
scribble since I started. 

" I sent a line from Halifax, when I felt pretty miserable, 



332 LITTLE WOMEN 

but after that I got on delightfully, seldom ill, on deck all day, 
with plenty of pleasant people to amuse me. Every one was 
very kind to me, especially the officers. Don't laugh, Jo; 
gentlemen really are very necessary aboard ship, to hold on to, 
or to wait upon one ; and as they have nothing to do, it 's a 
mercy to make them useful, otherwise they would smoke them- 
selves to death, I 'm afraid. 

" Aunt and Flo were poorly all the way, and liked to be let 
alone, so when I had done what I could for them, I went and 
enjoyed myself. Such walks on deck, such sunsets, such 
splendid air and waves ! It was almost as exciting as riding a 
fast horse, when we went rushing on so grandly. I wish Beth 
could have come, it would have done her so much good ; as for 
Jo, she would have gone up and sat on the main-top jib, or 
whatever the high thing is called, made friends with the 
engineers, and tooted on the captain's speaking-trumpet, she 'd 
have been in such a state of rapture. 

" It was all heavenly, but I was glad to see the Irish coast, 
and found it very lovely, so green and sunny, with brown 
cabins here and there, ruins on some of the hills, and gentle- 
men's country-seats in the valleys, with deer feeding in the 
parks. It was early in the morning, but I did n't regret getting 
up to see it, for the bay was full of little boats, the shore so 
picturesque, and a rosy sky overhead. I never shall forget it. 

" At Queenstown one of my new acquaintances left us. 
Mr. Lennox, and when I said something about the Lakes of 
Killarney, he sighed and sung, with a look at me, 

' Oh, have you e'er heard of Kate Kearney ? 
She lives on the banks of Killarney; 
From the glance of her eye, 
Shun danger and fly, 
For fatal's the glance of Kate Kearney.' 

Wasn't that nonsensical? 

" We only stopped at Liverpool a few hours. It *s a dirty, 
noisy place, and I was glad to leave it. Uncle rushed out 






LITTLE WOMEN 333 

bought a pair of dog-skin gloves, some ugly, thick shoes, and 
an umbrella, and got shaved a la mutton-chop, the first thing. 
Then he flattered himself that he looked like a true Briton ; but 
the first time he had the mud cleaned off his shoes, the little 
bootblack knew that an American stood in them, and said, with 
a grin, ' There yer har, sir. I 've give 'em the latest Yankee 
shine/ It amused uncle immensely. Oh, I must tell you what 
that absurd Lennox did ! He got his friend Ward, who came on 
with us, to order a bouquet for me, and the first thing I saw in 
my room was a lovely one, with ' Robert Lennox's compliments/ 
on the card. Was n't that fun, girls ? I like travelling. 

" I never shall get to London if I don't hurry. The trip was 
like riding through a long picture-gallery, full of lovely land- 
scapes. The farmhouses were my delight ; with thatched roofs, 
ivy up to the eaves, latticed windows, and stout women with 
rosy children at the doors. The very cattle looked more tranquil 
than ours, as they stood knee-deep in clover, and the hens had a 
contented cluck, as if they never got nervous, like Yankee 
biddies. Such perfect color I never saw, the grass so green, 
sky so blue, grain so yellow, woods so dark, I was in a rapture 
all the way. So was Flo ; and we kept bouncing from one side 
to the other, trying to see everything while we were whisking 
along at the rate of sixty miles an hour. Aunt was tired and 
went to sleep, but uncle read his guide-book, and would n't be 
astonished at anything. This is the way we went on: Amy, 
flying up, ' Oh, that must be Kenilworth, that gray place 
among the trees ! ' Flo, darting to my window, ' How sweet ! 
We must go there some time, won't we, papa ? ' Uncle, calmly 
admiring his boots, ' No, my dear, not unless you want 
beer ; that 's a brewery/ 

" A pause, then Flo cried out, ' Bless me, there 's a gallows 
and a man going up/ ' Where, where ? ' shrieks Amy, staring 
out at two tall posts with a cross-beam and some dangling 
chains. ' A colliery/ remarks uncle, with a twinkle of the eye. 
' Here 's a lovely flock of lambs all lying down/ says Amy. 
' See, papa, are n't they pretty ! ' added Flo sentimentally. 



334 LITTLE WOMEN 

' Geese, young ladies/ returns uncle, in a tone that keeps us 
quiet till Flo settles down to enjoy ' The Flirtations of Capt. 
Cavendish/ and I have the scenery all to myself. 

"Of course it rained when we got to London, and there was 
nothing to be seen but fog and umbrellas. We rested, unpacked, 
and shopped a little between showers. Aunt Mary got me some 
new things, for I came off in such a hurry I was n't half ready. 
A white hat and blue feather, a muslin dress to match, and the 
loveliest mantle you ever saw. Shopping in Regent Street is 
perfectly splendid; things seem so cheap nice ribbons only 
sixpence a yard. I laid in a stock, but shall get my gloves in 
Paris. Does n't that sound sort of elegant and rich ? 

" Flo and I, for the fun of it, ordered a hansom cab, while 
aunt and uncle were out, and went for a drive, though we 
learned afterward that it was n't the thing for young ladies to 
ride in them alone. It was so droll! for when we were shut 
in by the wooden apron, the man drove so fast that Flo was 
frightened, and told me to stop him. But he was up outside 
behind somewhere, and I could n't get at him. He did n't hear 
me call, nor see me flap my parasol in front, and there we were, 
quite helpless, rattling away, and whirling around corners at a 
break-neck pace. At last, in my despair, I saw a little door in 
the roof, and on poking it open, a red eye appeared, and a beevy 
voice said, 

" ' Now then, mum ? ' 

" I gave my order as soberly as I could, and slamming down 
the door, with an ' Aye, aye, mum/ the man made his horse 
walk, as if going to a funeral. I poked again, and said, ' A little 
faster ; ' then off he went, helter-skelter, as before, and we 
resigned ourselves to our fate. 

" To-day was fair, and we went to Hyde Park, close by, 
for we are more aristocratic than we look. The Duke of 
Devonshire lives near. I often see his footmen lounging at the 
back gate; and the Duke of Wellington's house is not far off, 
Such sights as I saw, my dear ! It was as good as Punch, for 
there were fat dowagers rolling about in their red and yellow 



LITTLE WOMEN 335 

coaches, with gorgeous Jeameses in silk stockings and velvet- 
coats, up behind, and powdered coachmen in front. Smart 
rnaids, with the rosiest children I ever saw; handsome girls, 
looking half asleep ; dandies, in queer English hats and lavender 
kids, lounging about, and tall soldiers, in short red jackets and 
muffin caps stuck on one side, looking so funny I longed to 
sketch them. 

" Rotten Row means ' Route de Roi,' or the king's way ; but 
now it 's more like a riding- school than anything else. The 
horses are splendid, and the men, especially the grooms, ride 
well ; but the women are stiff, and bounce, which is n't according 
to our rules. I longed to show them a tearing American gallop, 
for they trotted solemnly up and down, in their scant habits and 
high hats, looking like the women in a toy Noah's Ark. Every 
one rides, old men, stout ladies, little children, and the 
young folks do a deal of flirting here ; I saw a pair exchange 
rosebuds, for it 's the thing to wear one in the button-hole, and 
I thought it rather a nice little idea. 

" In the p. M. to Westminster Abbey ; but don't expect me 
to describe it, that 's impossible so I '11 only say it was 
sublime ! This evening we are going to see Fechter, which will 
be an appropriate end to the happiest day of my life. 

" MIDNIGHT. 

" It 's very late, but I can't let my letter go in the morning 
without telling you what happened last evening. Who do you 
think came in, as we were at tea? Laurie's English friends, 
Fred and Frank Vaughn ! I was so surprised, for I should n't 
have known them but for the cards. Both are tall fellows, with 
whiskers ; Fred handsome in the English style, and Frank much 
better, for he only limps slightly, and uses no crutches. They 
had heard from Laurie where we were to be, and came to ask us 
to their house ; but uncle won't go, so we shall return the call, 
and see them as we can. They went to the theatre with us, 
and we did have such a good time, for Frank devoted himself to 
Flo, and Fred and I talked over past, present, and future fun 



336 LITTLE WOMEN 

as if we had known each other all our days. Tell Beth Frank 
asked for her, and was sorry to hear of her ill health. Fred 
laughed when I spoke of Jo, and sent his ' respectful compli- 
ments to the big hat.' Neither of them had forgotten Camp 
Laurence, or the fun we had there. What ages ago it seems, 
doesn't it? 

" Aunt is tapping on the wall for the third time, so I must 
stop. I really feel like a dissipated London fine lady, writing 
here so late, with my room full of pretty things, and my head 
a jumble of parks, theatres, new gowns, and gallant creatures 
who say ' Ah ! ' and twirl their blond mustaches with the true 
English lordiness. I long to see you all, and in spite of my 
nonsense am, as ever, your loving AMY." 

" PARIS. 
" DEAR GIRLS, 

" In my last I told you about our London visit, how kind 
the Vaughns were, and what pleasant parties they made for us. 
I enjoyed the trips to Hampton Court and the Kensington 
Museum more than anything else, for at Hampton I saw 
Raphael's cartoons, and, at the Museum, rooms full of pictures 
by Turner, Lawrence, Reynolds, Hogarth, and the other great 
creatures. The day in Richmond Park was charming, for we 
had a regular English picnic, and I had more splendid oaks and 
groups of deer than I could copy; also heard a nightingale, and 
saw larks go up. We ' did ' London to our hearts' content, 
thanks to Fred and Frank, and were sorry to go away; for, 
though English people are slow to take you in, when they once 
make up their minds to do it they cannot be outdone in hos- 
pitality, / think. The Vaughns hope to meet us in Rome next 
winter, and I shall be dreadfully disappointed if they don't, 
for Grace and I are great friends, and the boys very nice fellows, 
especially Fred. 

" Well, we were hardly settled here, when he turned up again, 
saying he had come for a holiday, and was going to Switzerlam 
Aunt looked sober at first, but he was so cool about it si 



LITTLE WOMEN 337 

couldn't say a word; and now we get on nicely, and are very 
glad he came, for he speaks French like a native, and I don't 
know what we should do without him. Uncle does n't know 
ten words, and insists on talking English very loud, as if that 
would make people understand him. Aunt's pronunciation is 
old-fashioned, and Flo and I, though we flattered ourselves that 
we knew a good deal, find we don't, and are very grateful to 
have Fred do the ' parley vooing! as uncle calls it. 

" Such delightful times as we are having ! sight-seeing from 
morning till night, stopping for nice lunches in the gay cafes, 
and meeting with all sorts of droll adventures. Rainy days I 
spend in the Louvre, revelling in pictures. Jo would turn up 
her naughty nose at some of the finest, because she has no soul 
for art ; but I have, and I 'm cultivating eye and taste as fast 
as I can. She would like the relics of great people better, for 
I Ve seen her Napoleon's cocked hat and gray coat, his baby's 
cradle and his old toothbrush; also Marie Antoinette's little 
shoe, the ring of Saint Denis, Charlemagne's sword, and many 
other interesting things. I '11 talk for hours about them when 
I come, but have n't time to write. 

" The Palais Royal is a heavenly place, so full of 
bijouterie and lovely things that I 'm nearly distracted because 
I can't buy them. Fred wanted to get me some, but of course 
I did n't allow it. Then the Bois and the Champs Elysees are 
tres magnifique. I Ve seen the imperial family several times, 
the emperor an ugly, hard-looking man, the empress pale and 
pretty, but dressed in bad taste, I thought, purple dress, green 
hat and yellow gloves. Little Nap. is a handsome boy, who sits 
chatting to his tutor, and kisses his hand to the people as he 
passes in his four-horse barouche, with postilions in red satin 
jackets, and a mounted guard before and behind. 

" We often walk in the Tuileries Gardens, for they are lovely, 
though the antique Luxembourg Gardens suit me better. Pere 
la Chaise is very curious, for many of the tombs are like small 
rooms, and, looking in, one sees a table, with images or pictures 



338 LITTLE WOMEN 

of the dead, and chairs for the mourners to sit in when they 
come to lament. That is so Frenchy. 

" Our rooms are on the Rue de Rivoli, and, sitting in the 
balcony, we look up and down the long, brilliant street. It 
is so pleasant that we spend our evenings talking there, when 
too tired with our day's work to go out. Fred is very enter- 
taining, and is altogether the most agreeable young man I ever 
knew, except Laurie, whose manners are more charming. 
I wish Fred was dark, for I don't fancy light men; however, 
the Vaughns are very rich, and come of an excellent family, 
so I won't find fault with their yellow hair, as my own is 
yellower. 

" Next week we are off to Germany and Switzerland ; and, 
as we shall travel fast, I shall only be able to give you hasty 
letters. I keep my diary, and try to ' remember correctly and 
describe clearly all that I see and admire,' as father advised. 
It is good practice for me, and, with my sketch-book, will give 
you a better idea of my tour than these scribbles. 

" Adieu ; I embrace you tenderly. 

" VOTRE AMIE." 

" HEIDELBERG. 
;t MY DEAR MAMMA, 

" Having a quiet hour before we leave for Berne, I '11 try 
to tell you what has happened, for some of it is very important, 
as you will see. 

" The sail up the Rhine was perfect, and I just sat and en- 
joyed it with all my might. Get father's old guide-books, and 
read about it ; I have n't words beautiful enough to describe it. 
At Coblentz we had a lovely time, for some students from Bonn, 
with whom Fred got acquainted on the boat, gave us a sere- 
nade. It was a moonlight night, and, about one o'clock, Fk 
and I were waked by the most delicious music under our 
windows. We flew up, and hid behind the curtains; but sb 
peeps showed us Fred and the students singing away down 
below. It was the most romantic thing I ever saw, the river 



LITTLE WOMEN 339 

the bridge, the boats, the great fortress opposite, moonlight 
everywhere, and music fit to melt a heart of stone. 

" When they were done we threw down some flowers, and saw 
them scramble for them, kiss their hands to the invisible ladies, 
and go laughing away, to smoke and drink beer, I suppose. 
Next morning Fred showed me one of the crumpled flowers in 
his vest-pocket, and looked very sentimental. I laughed at him, 
and said I did n't throw it, but Flo, which seemed to disgust 
him, for he tossed it out of the window, and turned sensible 
again. I 'm afraid I 'm going to have trouble with that boy, 
it begins to look like it. 

" The baths at Nassau were very gay, so was Baden-Baden, 
where Fred lost some money, and I scolded him. He needs 
some one to look after him when Frank is not with him. Kate 
said once she hoped he 'd marry soon, and I quite agree with 
her that it would be well for him. Frankfort was delightful; 
I saw Goethe's house, Schiller's statue, and Dannecker's famous 
' Ariadne/ It was very lovely, but I should have enjoyed it 
more if I had known the story better. I did n't like to ask, 
as every one knew it or pretended they did. I wish Jo would 
tell me all about it; I ought to have read more, for I find I 
don't know anything, and it mortifies me. 

" Now comes the serious part, for it happened here, and 
Fred is just gone. He has been so kind and jolly that we 
all got quite fond of him; I never thought of anything but a 
travelling friendship, till the serenade night. Since then I Ve 
begun to feel that the moonlight walks, balcony talks, and 
daily adventures were something more to him than fun. I 
have n't flirted, mother, truly, but remembered what you said to 
me, and have done my very best. I can't help it if people like 
me ; I don't try to make them, and it worries me if I don't care 
for them, though Jo says, I have n't got any heart. Now I know 
mother will shake her head, and the girls say, ' Oh, the mer- 
cenary little wretch ! ' but I 've made up my mind, and, if Fred 
asks me, I shall accept him, though I 'm not madly in love. I 
like him, and we get on comfortably together. He is handsome, 



340 LITTLE WOMEN 

young, clever enough, and very rich, ever so much richer 
than the Laurences. I don't think his family would object, and 
I should be very happy, for they are all kind, well-bred, gen- 
erous people, and they like me. Fred, as the eldest twin, will 
have the estate, I suppose, and such a splendid one as it is ! A 
city house in a fashionable street, not so showy as our big 
houses, but twice as comfortable, and full of solid luxury, such 
as English people believe in. I like it, for it 's genuine. I Ve 
seen the plate, the family jewels, the old servants, and pictures 
of the country place, with its park, great house, lovely grounds, 
and fine horses. Oh, it would be all I should ask ! and I 'd 
rather have it than any title such as girls snap up so readily, and 
find nothing behind. I may be mercenary, but I hate poverty, 
and don't mean to bear it a minute longer than I can help. One 
of us must marry well; Meg didn't, Jo won't, Beth can't yet, 
so I shall, and make everything cosey all round. I would n't 
marry a man I hated or despised. You may be sure of that; 
and, though Fred is not my model hero, he does very well, 
and, in time, I should get fond enough of him if he was very 
fond of me, and let me do just as I liked. So I Ve been turn- 
ing the matter over in my mind the last week, for it was im- 
possible to help seeing that Fred liked me. He said nothing, 
but little things showed it ; he never goes with Flo, always gets 
on my side of the carriage, table, or promenade, looks senti- 
mental when we are alone, and frowns at any one else who ven- 
tures to speak to me. Yesterday, at dinner, when an Austrian 
officer stared at us, and then said something to his friend, a 
rakish-looking baron, about ' ein wunderschones Blondchen,' 
Fred looked as fierce as a lion, and cut his meat so savagely, it 
nearly flew off his plate. He is n't one of the cool, stiff English- 
men, but is rather peppery, for he has Scotch blood in him, 
as one might guess from his bonnie blue eyes. 

" Well, last evening we went up to the castle about sunset, 
at least all of us but Fred, who was to meet us there, after 
going to the Poste Restante for letters. We had a charming 
time poking about the ruins, the vaults where the monster tun 



LITTLE WOMEN 341 

is, and the beautiful gardens made by the elector, long ago, for 
his English wife. I liked the great terrace best, for the view 
was divine; so, while the rest went to see the rooms inside, I 
sat there trying to sketch the gray stone lion's head on the 
wall, with scarlet woodbine sprays hanging round it. I felt as 
if I 'd got into a romance, sitting there, watching the Neckar 
rolling through the valley, listening to the music of the Austrian 
band below, and waiting for my lover, like a real story book 
girl. I had a feeling that something was going to happen, and I 
was ready for it. I did n't feel blushy or quakey, but quite 
cool, and only a little excited. 

" By and by I heard Fred's voice, and then he came hurrying 
through the great arch to find me. He looked so troubled that 
I forgot all about myself, and asked what the matter was. He 
said he 'd just got a letter begging him to come home, for Frank 
was very ill ; so he was going at once, in the night train, and only 
had time to say good-by. I was very sorry for him, and disap- 
pointed for myself, but only for a minute, because he said, as he 
shook hands, and said it in a way that I could not mistake, 
' I shall soon come back ; you won't forget me, Amy ? ' 

" I did n't promise, but I looked at him, and he seemed satis- 
fied, and there was no time for anything but messages and good- 
byes, for he was off in an hour, and we all miss him very much. 
I know he wanted to speak, but I think, from something he once 
hinted, that he had promised his father not to do anything of 
the sort yet awhile, for he is a rash boy, and the old gentleman 
dreads a foreign daughter-in-law. We shall soon meet in Rome ; 
and then, if I don't change my mind, I '11 say * Yes, thank you,' 
when he says ' Will you, please ? ' 

" Of course this is all very private, but I wished you to know 
what was going on. Don't be anxious about me ; remember I 
am your ' prudent Amy,' and be sure I will do nothing rashly. 
Send me as much advice as you like ; I '11 use it if I can. I wish 
( could see you for a good talk, Marmee. Love and trust me. 

" Fver your 

" AMY/' 



342 LITTLE WOMEN 

CHAPTER XXXII. 

TENDER TROUBLES. 

" To, I J m anxious about Beth." 

"Why, mother, she has seemed unusually well since tht 
babies came." 

" It 's not her health that troubles me now ; it 's her spirits. 
I 'm sure there is something on her mind, and I want you tc 
discover what it is." 

" What makes you think so, mother ? " 

" She sits alone a good deal, and does n't talk to her father 
as much as she used. I found her crying over the babies the 
other day. When she sings, the songs are always sad ones, 
and now and then I see a look in her face that I don't under- 
stand. This is n't like Beth, and it worries me." 

et Have you asked her about it ? " 

" I have tried once or twice ; but she either evaded my ques- 
tions, or looked so distressed that I stopped. I never force my 
children's confidence, and I seldom have to wait for it long." 

Mrs. March glanced at Jo as she spoke, but the face opposite 
seemed quite unconscious of any secret disquietude but Beth's ; 
and, after sewing thoughtfully for a minute, Jo said, 

" I think she is growing up, and so begins to dream dreams, 
and have hopes and fears and fidgets, without knowing why, 
or being able to explain them. Why, mother, Beth's eighteen, 
but we don't realize it, and treat her like a child, forgetting 
she 's a woman." 

" So she is. Dear heart, how fast you do grow up," returned 
her mother, with a sigh and a smile. 

" Can't be helped, Marmee, so you must resign yourself to 
all sorts of worries, and let your birds hop out of the nest, one 
by one. I promise never to hop very far. if that : s any comfort 
to you." 



LITTLE WOMEN 343 

" It *s a great comfort, Jo ; I always feel strong when yor 
are at home, now Meg is gone. Beth is too feeble and Amy toe 
young to depend upon ; but when the tug conies, you are always 
ready." 

" Why, you know I don't mind hard jobs much, and there 
must always be one scrub in a family. Amy is splendid in fine 
#orks, and I 'm not ; but I feel in my element when all the 
carpets are to be taken up, or half the family fall sick at once. 
Amy is distinguishing herself abroad ; but if anything is amiss 
at home, I 'm your man." 

" I leave Beth to your hands, then, for she will open her 
tender little heart to her Jo sooner than to any one else. Be 
very kind, and don't let her think any one watches or talks 
about her. If she only would get quite strong and cheerful 
again, I should n't have a wish in the world." 

" Happy woman ! I 've got heaps." 

" My dear, what are they ? " 

" I '11 settle Bethy's troubles, and then I '11 tell you mine. 
They are not very wearing, so they '11 keep ; " and Jo stitched 
away, with a wise nod which set her mother's heart at rest about 
her, for the present at least. 

While apparently absorbed in her own affairs, Jo watched 
Beth; and, after many conflicting conjectures, finally settled 
upon one which seemed to explain the change in her. A slight 
incident gave Jo the clue to the mystery, she thought, and lively 
fancy, loving heart did the rest. She was affecting to write 
busily one Saturday afternoon, when she and Beth were alone 
together; yet as she scribbled, she kept her eye on her sister, 
who seemed unusually quiet. Sitting at the window, Beth's 
work often dropped into her lap, and she leaned her head upon 
her hand, in a dejected attitude, while her eyes rested on the 
dull, autumnal landscape. Suddenly some one passed below, 
whistling like an operatic blackbird, and a voice called out, 

" All serene ! Coming in to-night." 

Beth started, leaned forward, smiled and nodded, watched 



344 LITTLE WOMEN 

the passer-by till his quick tramp died away, then said softly, 
as if to herself, 

" How strong and well and happy that dear boy looks." 

" Hum ! " said Jo, still intent upon her sister's face ; for the 
bright color faded as quickly as it came, the smile vanished, 
and presently a tear lay shining on the window-ledge. Beth 
whisked it off, and glanced apprehensively at Jo; but she was 
scratching away at a tremendous rate, apparently engrossed in 
" Olympia's Oath." The instant Beth turned, Jo began her 
watch again, saw Beth's hand go quietly to her eyes more than 
once, and, in her half-averted face, read a tender sorrow that 
made her own eyes fill. Fearing to betray herself, she slipped 
away, murmuring something about needing more paper. 

" Mercy on me, Beth loves Laurie ! " she said, sitting down 
in her own room, pale with the shock of the discovery which 
she believed she had just made. " I never dreamt of such a 
thing. What will mother say? I wonder if he there Jo 
stopped, and turned scarlet with a sudden thought. "If he 
should n't love back again, how dreadful it would be. He must ; 
I '11 make him ! " and she shook her head threateningly at the 
picture of the mischievous-looking boy laughing at her from 
the wall. " Oh dear, we are growing up with a vengeance. 
Here 's Meg married and a mamma, Amy flourishing away at 
Paris, and Beth in love. I 'm the only one that has sense enough 
to keep out of mischief." Jo thought intently for a minute, 
with her eyes fixed on the picture ; then she smoothed out her 
wrinkled forehead, and said, with a decided nod at the face op- 
posite, " No, thank you, sir ; you 're very charming, but you 've 
no more stability than a weathercock ; so you need n't write 
touching notes, and smile in that insinuating way, for it won't 
do a bit of good, and I won't have it." 

Then she sighed, and fell into a reverie, from which she did 
not wake till the early twilight sent her down to take new ob- 
servations, which only confirmed her suspicion. Though 
Laurie flirted with Amy and joked with Jo, his manner to Beth 
had always been peculiarly kind and gentle, but so was every- 




Jo and Beth. Page 343. 



LITTLE WOMEN 345 

body's : therefore, no one thought of imagining that, he cared 
more tor her tiian for the others. Indeed, a general impression 
had prevailed in the family, of late, that " our boy " was getting 
fonder than ever of Jo, who, however, would n't hear a word 
upon the subject, and scolded violently if anyone dared to sug- 
gest it. If they had known the various tender passages of the 
past year, or rather attempts at tender passages which had been 
nipped in the bud, they would have had the immense satisfac- 
tion of saying, " I told you so." But Jo hated " philandering," 
and would n't allow it, always having a joke or a smile ready 
at the least sign of impending danger. 

When Laurie first went to college, he fell in love about once 
a month; but these small flames were as brief as ardent, did 
no damage, and much amused Jo, who took great interest in the 
alternations of hope, despair, and resignation, which were con- 
fided to her in their weekly conferences. But there came a time 
when Laurie ceased to worship at many shrines, hinted darkly 
at one all-absorbing passion, and indulged occasionally in 
Byronic fits of gloom. Then he avoided the tender subject al- 
together, wrote philosophical notes to Jo, turned studious, and 
gave out that he was going to " dig," intending to graduate in 
a blaze of glory. This suited the young lady better than twi- 
light confidences, tender pressures of the hand, and eloquent 
glances of the eye; for with Jo, brain developed earlier than 
heart, and she preferred imaginary heroes to real ones, because, 
when tired of them, the former could be shut up in the tin- 
kitchen till called for, and the latter were less manageable. 

Things were in this state when the grand discovery was made, 
and Jo watched Laurie that night as she had never done before. 
If she. had not got the new idea into her head, she would have 
seen nothing unusual in the fact that Beth was very quiet, and 
Laurie very kind to her. But having given the rein to her 
lively fancy, it galloped away with her at a great pace; and 
common sense, being rather weakened by a long course of 
romance writing, did not come to the rescue. As usual, Beth 
tey on the sofa, and Laurie sat in a !ow chair close by, amusing 



346 LITTLE WOMEN 

her with all sorts of gossip; for she depended on her weekly 
" spin," and he never disappointed her. But that evening, Jo 
fancied that Beth's eyes rested on the lively, dark face beside 
her with peculiar pleasure, and that she listened with intense 
interest to an account of some exciting cricket-match, though 
the phrases, " caught off a tice," " stumped off his ground," 
and " the leg hit for three," were as intelligible to her as San- 
scrit. She also fancied, having set her heart upon seeing it, that 
she saw a certain increase of gentleness in Laurie's manner, 
that he dropped his voice now and then, laughed less than usual, 
was a little absent-minded, and settled the afghan over Beth's 
feet with an assiduity that was really almost tender. 

" Who knows ? stranger things have happened," thought Jo, 
as she fussed about the room. " She will make quite an angel 
of him, and he will make life delightfully easy and pleasant 
for the dear, if they only love each other. I don't see how he 
can help it ; and I do believe he would if the rest of us were out 
of the way." 

As every one was out of the way but herself, Jo began to 
feel that she ought to dispose of herself with all speed. But 
where should she go ? and burning to lay herself upon the shrine 
of sisterly devotion, she sat down to settle that point. 

Now, the old sofa was a regular patriarch of a sofa, long, 
broad, well-cushioned, and low ; a trifle shabby, as well it might 
be, for the girls had slept and sprawled on it as babies, fished 
over the back, rode on the arms, and had menageries under it 
as children, and rested tired heads, dreamed dreams, and listened 
to tender talk on it as young women. They all loved it, for it 
was a family refuge, and one corner had always been Jo's 
favorite lounging-place. Among the many pillows that adorned 
the venerable couch was one, hard, round, covered with prickly 
horsehair, and furnished with a knobby button at each end: 
this repulsive pillow was her especial property, bemg used as a 
weapon of defence, a barricade, or a stern preventive of too 
much slumber. 

Laurie knew this pillow well, and had cause to regard it with 



LITTLE WOMEN 347 

deep aversion, having been unmercifully pummelled with it in 
former day,* when romping was allowed, and now frequently 
debarred by it from taking the seat he most coveted, next to 
Jo in the sofa corner. If " the sausage " as they called it, stood 
on an end, it was a sign that he might approach and repose; 
but if it lay flat across the sofa, woe to the man, woman, or 
child who dared disturb it! That evening Jo forgot to barri- 
cade her corner, and had not been in her seat five minutes, be- 
fore a massive form appeared beside her, and, with both arms 
spread over the sofa-back, both long legs stretched out before 
him, Laurie exclaimed, with a sigh of satisfaction, 

" Now, this is rilling at the price." 

" No slang," snapped Jo, slamming down the pillow. But 
it was too late, there was no room for it ; and, coasting on to the 
floor, it disappeared in a most mysterious manner. 

" Come, Jo, don't be thorny. After studying himself to a 
skeleton all the week, a fellow deserves petting, and ought to 
get it." 

" Beth will pet you ; I 'm busy." 

" No, she 's not to be bothered with me ; but you like that 
sort of thing, unless you Ve suddenly lost your taste for it. 
Have you? Do you hate your boy, and want to fire pillows 
at him?" 

Anything more wheedlesome than that touching appeal was 
seldom heard, but Jo quenched " her boy " by turning on him 
with the stern query, 

" How many bouquets have you sent Miss Randal this 
week?" 

" Not one, upon my word. She 's engaged. Now then." 

" I 'm glad of it ; that 's one of your foolish extravagances, - 
sending flowers and things to girls for whom you don't care 
two pins," continued Jo reprovingly. 

" Sensible girls, for whom I do care whole papers of pins, 
won't let me send them l flowers and things,' so what can I do ? 
M'y feelings must have a went." 



348 LITTLE WOMEN 

'- Mother does n't approve of flirting, even in fun ; and you do 
flirt desperately, Teddy." 

" I 'd give anything if I could answer, ' So do you/ As I 
can't, I '11 merely say that I don't see any harm in that pleasant 
little game, if all parties understand that it 's only play." 

" Well, it does look pleasant, but I can't learn how it 's done. 
I 've tried, because one feels awkward in company, not to do 
as everybody else is doing ; but I don't seem to get on," said Jo, 
forgetting to play Mentor. 

" Take lessons of Amy ; she has a regular talent for it." 

" Yes, she does it very prettily, and never seems to go too far. 
I suppose it 's natural to some people to please without trying, 
and others to always say and do the wrong thing in the wrong 
place." 

" I 'm glad you can't flirt ; it 's really refreshing to see a 
sensible, straightforward girl, who can be jolly and kind without 
making a fool of herself. Between ourselves, Jo, some of the 
girls I know really do go on at such a rate I 'm ashamed of them. 
They don't mean any harm, I 'm sure ; but if they knew how 
we fellows talked about them afterward, they 'd mend their 
ways, I fancy." 

" They do the same ; and, as their tongues are the sharpest, 
you fellows get the worst of it, for you are as silly as they, 
every bit. If you behaved properly, they would ; but, knowing 
you like their nonsense, they keep it up, and then you blame 
them." 

" Much you know about it, ma'am," said Laurie, in a superior 
tone. " We don't like romps and flirts, though we may act as 
if we did sometimes. The pretty, modest girls are never talked 
about, except respectfully, among gentlemen. Bless your inno- 
cent soul ! If you could be in my place for a month you 'd see 
things that would astonish you a trifle. Upon my wcrd, when I 
see one of those harum-scarum girls, I always want to say with 
our friend Cock Robin, 

" ' Out upon you, fie upon you. 
Bold-faced jig!'" 



LITTLE WOMEN 349 

It was impossible to help laughing at the funny conflict 
between Laurie's chivalrous reluctance to speak ill of woman- 
kind, and his very natural dislike of the unfeminine folly of 
which fashionable society showed him many samples. Jo knew 
that "young Laurence" was regarded as a most eligible parti 
by worldly mammas, was much smiled upon by their daughters, 
and flattered enough by ladies of all ages to make a coxcomb 
of him; so she watched him rather jealously, fearing he would 
be spoilt, and rejoiced more than she confessed to find that he 
still believed in modest girls. Returning suddenly to her 
admonitory tone, she said, dropping her voice, "If you must 
have a 'went,' Teddy, go and devote yourself to one of the 
' pretty, modest girls ' whom you do respect, and not waste your 
time with the silly ones." 

" You really advise it ? " and Laurie looked at her with an 
odd mixture of anxiety and merriment in his face. 

" Yes, I do ; but you 'd better wait till you are through college, 
on the whole, and be fitting yourself for the place meantime. 
You 're not half good enough for well, who ever the modest 
girl may be," and Jo looked a little queer likewise, for a name 
had almost escaped her. 

" That I 'm not ! " acquiesced Laurie, with an expression of 
humility quite new to him, as he dropped his eyes, and absently 
wound Jo's apron-tassel round his finger. 

" Mercy on us, this will never do," thought Jo ; adding aloud, 
" Go and sing to me. I 'm dying for some music, and always 
like yours." 

" I 'd rather stay here, thank you." 

" Well, you can't ; there is n't room. Go and make yourself 
useful, since you are too big to be ornamental. I thought you 
hated to be tied to a woman's apron-string ? " retorted Jo, 
quoting certain rebellious words of his own. 

"Ah, that depends on who wears the apron !" and Laurie 
gave an audacious tweak at the tassel. 

"Are you going? " demanded Jo, diving for the pillow. 

He fled at once, and the minute it was well " Up with the 



350 LITTLE WOMEN 

bonnets of bonnie Dundee," she slipped away, to return no more 
till the young gentleman had departed in high dudgeon. 

Jo lay long awake that night, and was just dropping off when 
the sound of a stifled sob made her fly to Beth's bedside, with 
the anxious inquiry, " What is it, dear ? " 

" I thought you were asleep," sobbed Beth. 

" Is it the old pain, my precious ? " 

" No ; it 's a new one ; but I can bear it," and Beth tried to 
check her tears. 

" Tell me all about it, and let me cure it as I often did the 
other." 

" You can't ; there is no cure." There Beth's voice gave way, 
and, clinging to her sister, she cried so despairingly that Jo 
was frightened. 

" Where is it ? Shall i call mother ? " 

Beth did not answer the first question; but in the dark one 
hand went involuntarily to her heart, as if the pain were there ; 
with the other she held Jo fast, whispering eagerly, " No, no, 
don't call her, don't tell her. I shall be better soon. Lie down 
here and ' poor ' my head. I '11 be quiet, and go to sleep ; indeed 
I will." 

Jo obeyed; but as her hand went softly to and fro across 
Beth's hot forehead and wet eyelids, her heart was very full, 
and she longed to speak. But young as she was, Jo had learned 
that hearts, like flowers, cannot be rudely handled, but must 
open naturally; so, though she believed she knew the cause of 
Beth's new pain, she only said, in her tenderest tone, " Does 
anything trouble you, deary ? " 

" Yes, Jo," after a long pause. 

" Would n't it comfort you to tell me what it is ? " 

" Not now, not yet." 

" Then I won't ask ; but remember, Beth, that mother and Jo 
are always glad to hear and help you, if they can/' 

" I know it. I '11 tell you by and by." 
' Is the pain better now ? " 

" Oh, yes, much better; you are so comfortable, Jo*" 



LITTLE WOMEN 351 

" Go to sleep, dear ; I '11 stay with you." 

So cheek to cheek they fell asleep, and on the morrow Beth 
seemed quite herself again; for at eighteen, neither heads nor 
hearts ache long, and a loving word can medicine most ills. 

But Jo had made up her mind, and, after pondering over a 
project for some days, she confided it to her mother. 

" You asked me the other day what my wishes were. I '11 tell 
you one of them, Marmee," she began, as they sat alone together. 
" I want to go away somewhere this winter for a change." 

" Why, Jo ? " and her mother looked up quickly, as if the 
words suggested a double meaning. 

With her eyes on her work, Jo answered soberly, " I want 
something new ; I feel restless, and anxious to be seeing, doing, 
and learning more than I am. I brood too much over my own 
small affairs, and need stirring up, so, as I can be spared this 
winter, I 'd like to hop a little way, and try my wings." 

"Where will you hop?" 

" To New York. I had a bright idea yesterday, and this is it. 
You know Mrs. Kirke wrote to you for some respectable young 
person to teach her children and sew. It 's rather hard to find 
just the thing, but I think I should suit if I tried." 

" My dear, go out to service in that great boarding-house ! " 
and Mrs. March looked surprised, but not displeased. 

" It 's not exactly going out to service ; for Mrs. Kirke is your 
friend, the kindest soul that ever lived, and would make 
things pleasant for me, I know. Her family is separate from 
the rest, and no one knows me there. Don't care if they do; 
it 's honest work, and I 'm not ashamed of it." 

" Nor I ; but your writing ? " 

"All the better for the change. I shall see and hear new 
things, get new ideas, and, even if I have n't much time there, 
I shall bring home quantities of material for my rubbish.'' 

" I have no doubt of it ; but are these your only reasons for 
this sudden fancy ? " 

" No, mother." 

"May I know the others?" 



352 LITTLE WOMEN 

Jo looked up and Jo looked down, then said slowly, with 
sudden color in her cheeks, " It may be vain and wrong to say 
it, but I 'm afraid Laurie is getting too fond of me." 

" Then you don't care for him in the way it is evident he 
begins to care for you ? " and Mrs. March looked anxious as 
she put the question. 

" Mercy, no ! I love the dear boy, as I always have, and am 
immensely proud of him ; but as for anything more, it 's out of 
the question." 

" I 'm glad of that, Jo." 

"Why, please?" 

" Because, dear, I don't think you are suited to one another. 
As friends you are very happy, and your frequent quarrels soon 
blow over ; but I fear you would both rebel if you were mated 
for life. You are too much alike and too fond of freedom, not 
to mention hot tempers and strong wills, to get on happily 
together, in a relation which needs infinite patience and forbear- 
ance, as well as love." 

" That 's just the feeling I had, though I could n't express it. 
I 'm glad you think he is only beginning to care for me. It 
would trouble me sadly to make him unhappy ; for I could n't 
fall in love with the dear old fellow merely out of gratitude, 
could I?" 

" You are sure of his feeling for you ? " 

The color deepened in Jo's cheeks, as she answered, with 
the look of mingled pleasure, pride, and pain which young girls 
wear when speaking of first lovers, 

" I 'm afraid it is so, mother ; he has n't said anything, but he 
looks a great deal. I think I had better go away before it 
comes to anything." 

" I agree with you, and if it can be managed you shall go." 

Jo looked relieved, and, after a pause, said, smiling, " How 
Mrs. Moffat would wonder at your want of management, if she 
knew; and how she will rejoice that Annie stiil may hope." 

"Ah, Jo, mothers may differ in their management, but the 
hope is the same in all, the desire to see their children happy. 



LITTLE WOMEN 353 

Meg is so, and I am content with her success. You I leave to 
enjoy your liberty till you tire of it; for only then will you find 
that there is something sweeter. Amy is my chief care now, but 
her good sense will help her. For Beth, I indulge no hopes 
except that she may be well. By the way, she seems brighter 
this last day or two. Have you spoken to her ? " 

" Yes ; she owned she had a trouble, and promised to tell me 
Ly and by. I said no more, for I think I know it ; " and Jo told 
her little story. 

Mrs. March shook her head, and did not take so romantic a 
view of the case, but looked grave, and repeated her opinion 
that, for Laurie's sake, Jo should go away for a time. 

" Let us say nothing about it to him till the plan is settled ; 
then I '11 run away before he can collect his wits and be tragical. 
Beth must think I 'm going to please myself, as I am, for I can't 
talk about Laurie to her; but she can pet and comfort him 
after I 'm gone, and so cure him of this romantic notion. He 's 
been through so many little trials of the sort, he 's used to it, 
and will soon get over his love-lornity." 

Jo spoke hopefully, but could not rid herself of the foreboding 
fear that this " little trial " would be harder than the others, 
and that Laurie would not get over his " love-lornity " as easily 
as heretofore. 

The plan was talked over in a family council, and agreed 
upon ; for Mrs. Kirke gladly accepted Jo, and promised to make 
a pleasant home for her. The teaching would render her inde- 
pendent ; and such leisure as she got might be made profitable 
by writing, while the new scenes and society would be both 
useful and agreeable. Jo liked the prospect and was eager to 
be gone, for the home-nest was growing too narrow for her 
restless nature and adventurous spirit. When all was settled, 
with fear and trembling she told Laurie; but to her surprise 
he took it very quietly. He had been graver than usual of late, 
but very pleasant; and, when jokingly accused of turning over 
a new leaf, he answered soberly, " So I am ; and I mean this one 
shall stav turned," 



354 LITTLE WOMEN 

Jo was very much relieved that one of his virtuous fits should 
come on just then, and made her preparations with a lightened 
heart, for Beth seemed more cheerful, and hoped she was 
doing the best for all. 

" One thing I leave to your especial care," she said, the night 
before she left. 

" You mean your papers ? " asked Beth. 

" No, my boy. Be very good to him, won't you ? " 

" Of course I will ; but I can't fill your place, and he '11 miss 
you sadly." 

" It won't hurt him ; so remember, I leave him in your charge, 
to plague, pet, and keep in order." 

" I '11 do my best, for your sake," promised Beth, wondering 
why Jo looked at her so queerly. 

When Laurie said " Good-by," he whispered significantly, 
" It won't do a bit of good, Jo. My eye is on you ; so mind 
what you do, or I '11 come and bring you home." 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

JO'S JOURNAL. 

" NEW YORK, November. 

"DEAR MARMEE AND BETH, 

" I 'm going to write you a regular volume, for I 've got heaps 
to tell, though I 'm not a fine young lady travelling on the 
continent. When I lost sight of father's dear old face, I felt 
a trifle blue, and might have shed a briny drop or two, if an 
Irish lady with four small children, all crying more or less, 
had n't diverted my mind ; for I amused myself by dropping 
gingerbread nuts over the seat every time they opened their 
mouths to roar. 

" Soon the sun came out, and taking it as a good omen, 1 
cleared up likewise, and enjoyed my journey with all my heart/' 

" Mrs. Kirke welcomed me so kindly I felt at home at once, 



LITTLE WOMEN 355 

even in that big house full of strangers. She gave me a funny 
little sky-parlor all she had ; but there is a stove in it, and a 
nice table in a sunny window, so I can sit here and write 
whenever 1 like. A fine view and a church-tower opposite atone 
for the many stairs, and I took a fancy to my den on the spot. 
The nursery, where I am to teach and sew, is a pleasant room 
next Mrs. Kirke's private parlor, and the two little girls are 
pretty children, rather spoilt, I fancy, but they took to me 
after telling them ' The Seven Bad Pigs ; ' and I Ve no doubt I 
shall make a model governess. 

" I am to have my meals with the children, if I prefer it to 
the great table, and for the present I do, for I am bashful, 
though no one will believe it. 

" ' Now, my dear, make yourself at home/ said Mrs. K. in 
her motherly way ; ' I 'm on the drive from morning to night, as 
you may suppose with such a family; but a great anxiety will 
be off my mind if I know the children are safe with you. My 
rooms are always open to you, and your own shall be as 
comfortable as I can make it. There are some pleasant people 
in the house if you feel sociable, and your evenings are always 
free. Come to me if anything goes wrong, and be as happy as 
you can. There 's the tea-bell ; I must run and change my cap ; ' 
and off she bustled, leaving me to settle myself in my new nest. 

" As I went downstairs, soon after, I saw something I liked. 
The flights are very long in this tall house, and as I stood 
waiting at the head of the third one for a little servant-girl to 
lumber up, I saw a gentleman come along behind her, take the 
heavy hod of coal out of her hand, carry it all the way up, put 
it down at a door near by, and walk away, saying, with a kind 
nod and a foreign accent, 

'"It goes better so. The little back is too young to haf such 
heaviness.* 

" Was n't it good of him ? I like such things, for, as father 
says, trifles show character. When I mentioned it to Mrs. K. f 
that evening, she laughed, and said, 



356 LITTLE WOMEN 

" 'That must have been Professor Bhaer , he 's always doing 
things of that sort/ 

" Mrs. K. told me he was from Berlin ; very learned and good, 
but poor as a church-mouse, and gives lessons to support himself 
and two little orphan nephews whom he is educating here, 
according to the wishes of his sister, who married an American. 
Not a very romantic story, but it interested me ; and I was glad 
to hear that Mrs. K. lends him her parlor for some of his 
scholars. There is a glass door between it and the nursery, and 
I mean to peep at him, and then I '11 tell you how he looks. 
He J s almost forty, so it 's no harm, Marmee. 

" After tea and a go-to-bed romp with the little girls, I 
attacked the big work-basket, and had a quiet evening with my 
new friend. I shall keep a journal-letter, and send it once a 
week ; so good-night, and more to-morrow." 

" Tuesday Eve. 

" Had a lively time in my seminary, this morning, for the 
children acted like Sancho; and at one time I really thought I 
should shake them all round. Some good angel inspired me to 
try gymnastics, and I kept it up till they were glad to sit down 
and keep still. After luncheon, the girl took them out for a 
walk, and I went to my needlework, like little Mabel, ' with a 
willing mind.' I was thanking my stars that I 'd learned to 
make nice button-holes, when the parlor-door opened and shut, 
and some one began to hum, 

' Kennst du das Land,' 

like a big bumble-bee. It was dreadfully improper, I know, but 
I could n't resist the temptation ; and lifting one end of the 
curtain before the glass door, I peeped in. Professor Bhaer 
was there ; and while he arranged his books, I took a good look 
at him. A regular German, rather stout, with brown hair 
tumbled all over his head, a bushy beard, good nose, the kindest 
eyes I ever saw, and a splendid big voice that does one's ears 
good, after our sharp or slipshod American gabble. His clothes 
were rusty, his hands were large, and he had n't a really hand- 



LITTLE WOMEN 357 

some feature in his face, except his beautiful teeth ; yet I liked 
him, for he had a fine head; his linen was very nice, and he 
looked like a gentleman, though two buttons were off his coat, 
and there was a patch on one shoe. He looked sober in spite 
of his humming, till he went to the window to turn the hyacinth 
bulbs toward the sun, and stroke the cat, who received him like 
an old friend. Then he smiled- and when a tap came at the 
door, called out in a loud, brisk tone, 

" ' Herein ! ' 

" I was just going to run, when I caught sight of a morsel 
of a child carrying a big book, and stopped to see what was 
going on. 

" ' Me wants my Bhaer,' said the mite, slamming down her 
book, and running to meet him. 

" ' Thou shalt haf thy Bhaer ; come, then, and take a goot hug 
from him, my Tina/ said the Professor, catching her up, with 
a laugh, and holding her so high over his head that she had to 
stoop her little face to kiss him. 

" ' Now me mus tuddy my lessin,' went on the funny little 
thing ; so he put her up at the table, opened the great dictionary 
she had brought, and gave her a paper and pencil, and she 
scribbled away, turning a leaf now and then, and passing her 
little fat finger down the page, as if finding a word, so soberly 
that I nearly betrayed myself by a laugh, while Mr. Bhaer stood 
stroking her pretty hair, with a fatherly look, that made 
me think she must be his own, though she looked more French 
than German. 

" Another knock and the appearance of two young ladies sent 
me back to my work, and there I virtuously remained through 
all the noise and gabbling that went on next door. One of the 
girls kept laughing affectedly, and saying, ' Now Professor/ in 
a coquettish tone, and the other pronounced her German with 
an accent that must have made it hard for him to keep sober. 

" Both seemed to try his patience sorely ; for more than once 
I heard him say emphatically, ' No, no, it is not so ; you haf not 
attend to what I say ; ' and once there was a loud rap, as if he 



358 LITTLE WOMEN 

struck the table with his book, followed by the despairing 
exclamation, ' Prut ! it all goes bad this day/ 

" Poor man, I pitied him ; and when the girls were gone, took 
just one more peep, to see if he survived it. He seemed to have 
thrown himself back in his chair, tired out, and sat there with 
his eyes shut till the clock struck two, when he jumped up, put 
his books in his pocket, as if ready for another lesson, and, 
taking little Tina, who had fallen asleep on the sofa, in his 
arms, he carried her quietly away. I fancy he has a hard 
life of it. 

" Mrs. Kirke asked me if I would n't go down to the five 
o'clock dinner; and, feeling a little bit homesick, I thought I 
would, just to see what sort of people are under the same roof 
with me. So I made myself respectable, and tried to slip in 
behind Mrs. Kirke ; but as she is short, and I 'm tall, my efforts 
at concealment were rather a failure. She gave me a seat by 
her, and after my face cooled off, I plucked up courage, and 
looked about me. The long table was full, and every one intent 
on getting their dinner, the gentlemen especially, who seemed 
to be eating on time, for they bolted in every sense of the word, 
vanishing as soon as they were done. There was the usual 
assortment of young men absorbed in themselves ; young couples 
absorbed in each other ; married ladies in their babies, and old 
gentlemen in politics. I don't think I shall care to have much to 
do with any of them, except one sweet-faced maiden lady, 
who looks as if she had something in her. 

" Cast away at the very bottom of the table was the Professor, 
shouting answers to the questions of a very inquisitive, deaf old 
gentleman on one side, and talking philosophy with a Frenchman 
on the other. If Amy had been here, she 'd have turned her 
back on him forever, because, sad to relate, he had a great 
appetite, and shovelled in his dinner in a manner which would 
have horrified ' her ladyship.' I did n't mind, for I like ' to see 
folks eat with a relish,' as Hannah says , and the poor man must 
have needed a deal of food after teaching idiots all day. 

"' As I went upstairs after dinner, two of the young men were 



LITTLE WOMEN 359 

settling their hats before the hall-mirror, and I heard one say 
low to the other, ' Who 's the new party ? ' 

" 'Governess, or something of that sort.' 

" 'What the deuce is she at our table for ? ' 

" ' Friend of the old lady's/ 

" 'Handsome head, but no style/ 

" 'Not a bit of it. Give us a light and come on/ 

" I felt angry at first, and then I did n't care, for a governess 
is as good as a clerk, and I 've got sense, if I have n't style, 
which is more than some people have, judging from the remarks 
of the elegant beings who clattered away, smoking like bad 
chimneys. I hate ordinary people ! " 

" Thursday. 

" Yesterday was a quiet day, spent in teaching, sewing, and 
writing in my little room, which is very cosey, with a light and 
fire. I picked up a few bits of news, and was introduced to the 
Professor. It seems that Tina is the child of the Frenchwoman 
who does the fine ironing in the laundry here. The little thing 
has lost her heart to Mr. Bhaer, and follows him about the house 
like a dog whenever he is at home, which delights him, as he 
is very fond of children, though a ' bacheldore/ Kitty and 
Minnie Kirke likewise regard him with affection, and tell all 
sorts of stories about the plays he invents, the presents he brings, 
and the splendid tales he tells. The young men quiz him, it 
seems, call him Old Fritz, Lager Beer, Ursa Major, and make 
all manner of jokes on his name. But he enjoys it like a boy, 
Mrs. K. says, and takes it so good-naturedly that they all like 
him, in spite of his foreign ways. 

" The maiden lady is a Miss Norton, rich, cultivated, and 
kind. She spoke to me at dinner to-day (for I went to table 
again, it's such fun to watch people), and asked me to come 
and see her at her room. She has fine books and pictures, knows 
interesting persons, and seems friendly ; so I shall make myself 
agreeable, for I do want to get into good society, only it is n't 
the same sort that Amy likes. 



360 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I was in our parlor last evening, when Mr. Bhaer came in 
with some newspapers for Mrs. Kirke. She was n't there, buf 
Minnie, who is a little old woman, introduced me very prettily .- 
' This is mamma's friend, Miss March/' 

" ' Yes ; and she 's jolly and we like her lots/ added Kitty, 
who is an enfant terrible. 

" We both bowed, and then we laughed, for the prim intro- 
duction and the blunt addition were rather a comical contrast. 

" * Ah, yes, I hear these naughty ones go to vex you, Mees 
Marsch. If so again, call at me and I come/ he said, with a 
threatening frown that delighted the little wretches. 

" I promised I would, and he departed ; but it seems as if I 
was doomed to see a good deal of him, for to-day, as I passed 
his door on my way out, by accident I knocked against it with 
my umbrella. It flew open, and there he stood in his dressing- 
gown, with a big blue sock in one hand, and a darning-needle in 
the other ; he did n't seem at all ashamed of it, for when I 
explained and hurried on, he waved his hand, sock and all, 
saying in his loud, cheerful way, 

" ' You haf a fine day to make your walk. Bon voyage, 
mademoiselle.' 

" I laughed all the way downstairs ; but it was a little pathetic, 
also, to think of the poor man having to mend his own clothes. 
The German gentlemen embroider, I know ; but darning hose is 
another thing, and not so pretty." 

" Saturday. 

" Nothing has happened to write about, except a call on Miss 
Norton, who has a room full of lovely things, and who was very 
charming, for she showed me all her treasures, and asked me 
if I would sometimes go with her to lectures and concerts, as 
her escort, if I enjoyed them. She put it as a favor, but I 'm 
sure Mrs. Kirke has told her about us, and she does it out of 
kindness to me. I 'm as proud as Lucifer, but such favors from 
such people don't burden me, and I accepted gratefully. 

" When I got back to the nursery there was such an uproar 



LITTLE WOMEN 361 

in the parlor that I looked in ; and there was Mr. Bhaer down on 
his hands and knees, with Tina on his back, Kitty leading him 
with a jump-rope, and Minnie feeding two small boys with 
seed-cakes, as they roared and ramped in cages built of chairs. 

" ' We are playing nargerie,' explained Kitty. 

" ' Dis is mine effalunt ! * added Tina, holding on by the 
Professor's hair. 

" ' Mamma always allows us to do what we like Saturday 
afternoons, when Franz and Emil come, doesn't she, Mr. 
Bhaer ? ' said Minnie. 

" The ' effalunt ' sat up, looking as much in earnest as any 
of them, and said soberly to me, 

" I gif you my wort it is so. If we make too large a noise 
you shall say " Hush ! " to us, and we go more softly.' 

" I promised to do so, but left the door open, and enjoyed 
the fun as much as they did, for a more glorious frolic I 
never witnessed. They played tag and soldiers, danced and 
sung, and when it began to grow dark they all piled on to the 
sofa about the Professor, while he told charming fairy stories 
of the storks on the chimney-tops, and the little ' kobolds,' who 
ride the snow-flakes as they fall. I wish Americans were as 
simple and natural as Germans, don't you? 

" I 'm so fond of writing, I should go spinning on forever if 
motives of economy did n't stop me ; for though I 've used thin 
paper and written fine, I tremble to think of the stamps this 
long letter will need. Pray forward Amy's as soon as you can 
spare them. My small news will sound very flat after her 
splendors, but you will like them, I know. Is Teddy studying 
so hard that he can't find time to write to his friends? Take 
good care of him for me, Beth, and tell me all about the babies, 
and give heaps of love to every one. 

" From your faithful Jo. 

" P. S. On reading over my letter it strikes me as rather 
Bhaery ; but I am always interested in odd people, and I really 
had nothing else to write about. Bless you ! " 



362 LITTLE WOMEN 

" DECEMBER. 
" MY PRECIOUS BETSEY, 

" As this is to be a scribble-scrabble letter, I direct it to you, 
for it may amuse you, and give you some idea of my goings on ; 
for, though quiet, they are rather amusing, for which, oh, be 
joyful! After what Amy would call Herculaneum efforts, in 
the way of mental and moral agriculture, my young ideas begin 
to shoot and my little twigs to bend as I could wish. They are 
not so interesting to me as Tina and the boys, but I do my duty 
by them, and they are fond of me. Franz and Emil are jolly 
little lads, quite after my own heart ; for the mixture of German 
and American spirit in them produces a constant state of 
effervescence. Saturday afternoons are riotous times, whether 
spent in the house or out; for on pleasant days they all go to 
walk, like a seminary, with the Professor and myself to keep 
order ; and then such fun ! 

" We are very good friends now, and I 've begun to take 
lessons. I really could n't help it, and it all came about in such' 
a droll way that I must tell you. To begin at the beginning, 
Mrs. Kirke called to me, one day, as I passed Mr. Bhaer's room, 
where she was rummaging. 

" ' Did you ever see such a den, my dear ? Just come and help 
me put these books to rights, for I 've turned everything upside 
down, trying to discover what he has done with the six new 
handkerchiefs I gave him not long ago.' 

" I went in, and while we worked I looked about me, for it 
was ' a den,' to be sure. Books and papers everywhere ; a 
broken meerschaum, and an old flute over the mantle-piece as 
if done with; a ragged bird, without any tail, chirped on one 
window-seat, and a box of white mice adorned the other ; half - 
finished boats and bits of string lay among the manuscripts; 
dirty little boots stood drying before the fire; and traces of the 
dearly beloved boys, for whom he makes a slave of himself, 
were to be seen all over the room. After a grand rummage 
three of the missing articles were found, one over the bird* 



LITTLE WOMEN 363 

cage, one covered with ink, and a third burnt brown, having 
been used as a holder. 

" ' Such a man ! ' laughed good-natured Mrs. K., as she put 
the relics in the rag-bag. ' I suppose the others are torn up to 
rig ships, bandage cut fingers, or make kite-tails. It 's dreadful, 
but I can't scold him : he 's so absent-minded and good-natured, 
he lets those boys ride over him rough-shod. I agreed to do his 
washing and mending, but he forgets to give out his things 
and I forget to look them over, so he comes to a sad pass 
sometimes.' 

" ' Let me mend them,' said I. 'I don't mind it, and he 
need n't know. I 'd like to, he 's so kind to me about bringing 
my letters and lending books. 

" So I have got his things in order, and knit heels into two 
pairs of the socks, for they were boggled out of shape with 
his queer darns. Nothing was said, and I hoped he would n't 
find it out, but one day last week he caught me at it. Hearing 
the lessons he gives to others has interested and amused me so 
much that I took a fancy to learn; for Tina runs in and out, 
leaving the door open, and I can hear. I had been sitting near 
this door, finishing off the last sock, and trying to understand 
what he said to a new scholar, who is as stupid as I am. The 
girl had gone, and I thought he had also, it was so still, and I 
was busily gabbling over a verb, and rocking to and fro in a 
most absurd way, when a little crow made me look up, and there 
was Mr. Bhaer looking and laughing quietly, while he made 
signs to Tina not to betray him. 

" ' So ! ' he said, as I stopped and stared like a goose, * you 
peep at me, I peep at you, and that is not bad ; but see, I am not 
pleasanting when I say, haf you a wish for German ? ' 

' Yes ; but you are too busy. I am too stupid to learn/ 
I blundered out, as red as a peony. 

" ' Prut ! we will make the time, and we fail not to find the 
sense. At efening I shall gif a little lesson with much gladness ; 
for, look you, Mees Marsch, I haf this debt to pay,' and he 
pointed to my work. " Yes," they say to one another, these so 



364 LITTLE WOMEN 

kind ladies, " he is a stupid old fellow ; he will see not what we 
do; he will never opserve that his sock-heels go not in holes 
any more, he will think his buttons grow out new when they 
rail, and believe that strings make theirselves." Ah ! but I haf 
an eye, and I see much. I haf a heart, and I feel the thanks 
for this. Come, a little lesson then and now, or no more good 
fairy works for me and mine/ 

"Of course I could n't say anything after that, and as it 
really is a splendid opportunity, I made the bargain, and we 
began. I took four lessons, and then I stuck fast in a 
grammatical bog. The Professor was very patient with me, 
but it must have been torment to him, and now and then he 'd 
look at me with such an expression of mild despair that it 
was a toss-up with me whether to laugh or cry. I tried both 
ways; and when it came to a sniff of utter mortification and 
woe, he just threw the grammar on to the floor, and marched 
out of the room. I felt myself disgraced and deserted forever, 
but did n't blame him a particle, and was scrambling my papers 
together, meaning to rush upstairs and shake myself hard, when 
in he came, as brisk and beaming as if I 'd covered myself 
with glory. 

" ' Now we shall try a new way. You and I will read these 
pleasant little Marchen together, and dig no more in that dry 
book, that goes in the corner for making us trouble.' 

" He spoke so kindly, and opened Hans Andersen's fairy tales 
so invitingly before me, that I was more ashamed than ever, 
and went at my lesson in a neck-or-nothing style that seemed to 
amuse him immensely. I forgot my bashfulness, and pegged 
away (no other word will express it) with all my might, 
tumbling over long words, pronouncing according to the inspira- 
tion of the minute, and doing my very best. When I finished 
reading my first page, and stopped for breath, he clapped his 
hands and cried out, in his hearty way, ' Das ist gut ! Now 
we go well ! My turn. I do him in German ; gif me your ear.' 
And away he went, rumbling out the words with his strong 
voice, and a relish which was good to see as well as hear, 



LITTLE WOMEN 365 

Fortunately the story was the ' Constant Tin Soldier/ which is 
droll, you know, so I could laugh, and I did, though I 
did n't understand half he read, for I could n't help it, he was 
so earnest, I so excited, and the whole thing so comical. 

" After that we got on better, and now I read my lessons 
pretty well; for this way of studying suits me, and I can see 
that the grammar gets tucked into the tales and poetry as one 
gives pills in jelly. I like it very much, and he does n't seem 
tired of it yet, which is very good of him, is n't it ? I mean 
to give him something on Christmas, for I dare not offer money. 
Tell me something nice, Marmee. 

" I 'm glad Laurie seems so happy and busy, that he has 
given up smoking, and lets his hair grow. You see Beth 
manages him better than I did. I 'm not jealous, dear ; do your 
best, only don't make a saint of him. I 'm afraid I could n't 
like him without a spice of human naughtiness. Read him bits 
of my letters. I have n't time to write much, and that will do 
just as well. Thank Heaven Beth continues so comfortable." 

" JANUARY. 

" A Happy New Year to you all, my dearest family, which 
of course includes Mr. L. and a young man by the name of 
Teddy. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your Christmas 
bundle, for I did n't get it till night, and had given up hoping. 
Your letter came in the morning, but you said nothing about a 
parcel, meaning it for a surprise ; so I was disappointed, for I 'd 
had a ' kind of feeling ' that you would n't forget me. I felt a 
little low in my mind, as I sat up in my room, after tea; and 
when the big, muddy, battered-looking bundle was brought to 
im, I just hugged it, and pranced. It was so homey and 
refreshing, that I sat down on the floor and read and looked 
and ate and laughed and cried, in my usual absurd way. The 
things were just what I wanted, and all the better for being 
made instead of bought. Beth's new ' ink-bib ' was capital; and 
Hannah's box of hard ginger-bread will be a treasure. I 'il be 
sure and wear the nice flannels you sent, Marmee, and read 



366 LITTLE WOMEN 

carefully the books father has marked. Thank you all, heaps 
and heaps ! 

" Speaking of books reminds me that I 'm getting rich in 
that line, for, on New Year's Day, Mr. Bhaer gave me a fine 
Shakespeare. It is one he values much, and I 've often admired 
it, set up in the place of honor, with his German Bible, 
Plato, Homer, and Milton; so you may imagine how I felt 
when he brought it down, without its cover, and showed me 
my name in it, ' from my friend Friedrich Bhaer.' 

" ' You say often you wish a library : here I gif you one ; for 
between these lids (he meant covers), is many books in one. 
Read him well, and he will help you much; for the study of 
character in this book will help you to read it in the world and 
paint it with your pen/ 

" I thanked him as well as I could, and talk now about ' my 
library,' as if I had a hundred books. I never knew how much 
there was in Shakespeare before ; but then I never had a Bhaer 
to explain it to me. Now don't laugh at his horrid name; it 
is n't pronounced either Bear or Beer, as people will say it, 
but something between the two, as only Germans can give it. 
I 'm glad you both like what I tell you about him, and hope 
you will know him some day. Mother would admire his warm 
heart, father his wise head. I admire both, and feel rich in my 
new ' friend Friedrich Bhaer.' 

" Not having much money, or knowing what he 'd like, I got 
several little things, and put them about the room, where he 
would find them unexpectedly. They were useful, pretty, or 
funny, a new standish on his table, a little vase for his 
flowers, he always has one, or a bit of green in a glass, to 
keep him fresh, he says, and a holder for his blower, so that 
he need n't burn up what Amy calls ' mouchoirs.' I made it 
like those Beth invented, a big butterfly with a fat body, 
and black and yellow wings, worsted feelers, and bead eyes. 
It took his fancy immensely, and he put it on his mantel-piece 
as an article of vertu; so it was rather a failure after all. Poor 
as he is, he did n't forget a servant or a child in the house ; 



LITTLE WOMEN 367 

and not a soul here, from the French laundry-woman to Miss 
Norton, forgot him. I was so glad of that. 

" They got up a masquerade, and had a gay time New Year's 
Eve. I did n't mean to go down, having no dress ; but at the 
last minute, Mrs. Kirke remembered some old brocades, and 
Miss Norton lent me lace and feathers; so I dressed up as 
Mrs. Malaprop, and sailed in with a mask on. No one knew 
me, for I disguised my voice, and no one dreamed the 
silent, haughty Miss March ( for they think I am very stiff and 
cool; most of them; and so I am to whipper-snappers) could 
dance and dress, and burst out into a ' nice derangement of 
epitaphs, like an allegory on the banks of the Nile.' I enjoyed 
it very much ; and when we unmasked, it was fun to see them 
stare at me. I heard one of the young men tell another that 
he knew I 'd been an actress ; in fact, he thought he remembered 
seeing me at one of the minor theatres. Meg will relish that 
joke. Mr. Bhaer was Nick Bottom, and Tina was Titania, 
a perfect little fairy in his arms. To see them dance was ' quite 
a landscape,' to use a Teddyism. 

" I had a very happy New Year, after all ; and when I thought 
it over in my room, I felt as if I was getting on a little in spite 
of my many failures ; for I 'm cheerful all the time now, work 
with a will, and take more interest in other people than I used to, 
which is satisfactory. Bless you all! Ever your loving 

Jo." 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

A FRIEND. 

THOUGH very happy in the social atmosphere about her, and 
very busy with the daily work that earned her bread, and made 
it sweeter for the effort, Jo still found time for literary labors. 
The purpose which now took possession of her was a natural 
one to a poor and ambitious girl; but the means she took to 
gain her end were not the best. She saw that money conferred 



368 LITTLE WOMEN 

power : money and power, therefore, she resolved to have ; not 
to be used for herself alone, but for those whom she loved 
more than self. 

The dream of filling home with comforts, giving Beth 
everything she wanted, from strawberries in winter to an organ 
in her bedroom ; going abroad herself, and always having more 
than enough, so that she might indulge in the luxury of charity, 
had been for years Jo's most cherished castle in the air. 

The prize-story experience had seemed to open a way 
which might, after long travelling and much up-hill work lead 
to this delightful chateau en Espagne. But the novel disaster 
quenched her courage for a time, for public opinion is a giant 
which has frightened stouter-hearted Jacks on bigger bean-stalks 
than hers. Like that immortal hero, she reposed awhile after 
the first attempt, which resulted in a tumble, and the least lovely 
of the giant's treasures, if I remember rightly. But the " up 
again and take another " spirit was as strong in Jo as in Jack ; 
so she scrambled up, on the shady side this time, and got more 
booty, but nearly left behind her what was far more precious 
than the money-bags. 

She took to writing sensation stories ; for in those dark ages, 
even all-perfect America read rubbish. She told no one, but 
concocted a " thrilling tale," and boldly carried it herself to 
Mr. Dashwood, editor of the "Weekly Volcano." She had 
never read " Sartor Resartus," but she had a womanly instinct 
that clothes possess an influence more powerful over many than 
the worth of character or the magic of manners. So she dressej 
herself in her best, and, trying to persuade herself that she was 
neither excited nor nervous, bravely climbed two pairs of dark 
and dirty stairs to find herself in a disorderly room, a cloud of 
cigar-smoke, and the presence of three gentlemen, sitting with 
their heels rather higher than their hats, which articles of dress 
none of them took the trouble to remove on her appearance. 
Somewhat daunted by this reception, Jo hesitated on the 
threshold, murmuring in much embarrassment, 



LITTLE WOMEN 369 

" Excuse me, I was looking for the ' Weekly Volcano ' office ; 
I wished to see Mr. Dashwood." 

Down went the highest pair of heels, up rose the smokiest 
gentleman, and, carefully cherishing his cigar between his 
fingers, he advanced, with a nod, and a countenance expressive 
of nothing but sleep. Feeling that she must get through the 
matter somehow, Jo produced her manuscript, and, blushing 
redder and redder with each sentence, blundered out fragments 
of the little speech carefully prepared for the occasion. 

" A friend of mine desired me to offer a story just as 
an experiment would like your opinion be glad to write 
more if this suits." 

While she blushed and blundered, Mr. Dashwood had taken 
the manuscript, and was turning over the leaves with a pair of 
rather dirty fingers, and casting critical glances up and down the 
neat pages. 

" Not a first attempt, I take it ? " observing that pages were 
numbered, covered only on one side, and not tied up with a 
ribbon, sure sign of a novice. 

" No, sir ; she has had some experience, and got a prize for 
a tale in the ' Blarneystone Banner.' " 

"Oh, did she?" and Mr. Dashwood gave Jo a quick look, 
which seemed to take note of everything she had on, from the 
bow in her bonnet to the buttons on her boots. " Well, you can 
leave it, if you like. We Ve more of this sort of thing on hand 
than we know what to do with at present ; but I '11 run my eye 
over it, and give you an answer next week." 

Now, Jo did not like to leave it, for Mr. Dashwood didn't 
suit her at all ; but, under the circumstances, there was nothing 
for her to do but bow and walk away, looking particularly tall 
and dignified, as she was apt to do when nettled or abashed. 
Just then she was both; for it was perfectly evident, from the 
knowing glances exchanged among the gentlemen, that her 
little fiction of " my friend " was considered a good joke ; and 
a laugh, produced by some inaudible remark of the editor, as 
he closed the door, completed her discomfiture. Half resolving 



370 LITTLE WOMEN 

never to return, she went home, and worked off her irritation 
by stitching pinafores vigorously; and in an hour or two was 
cool enough to laugh over the scene, and long for next week. 

When she went again, Mr. Dashwood was alone, whereat she 
rejoiced; Mr. Dashwood was much wider awake than before, 
which was agreeable; and Mr. Dashwood was not too deeply 
absorbed in a cigar to remember his manners : so the second 
interview was much more comfortable than the first. 

" We '11 take this " (editors never say I), " if you don't object 
to a few alterations. It 's too long, but omitting the passages 
I Ve marked will make it just the right length," he said, in a 
business-like tone. 

Jo hardly knew her own MS. again, so crumpled and under- 
scored were its pages and paragraphs ; but, feeling as a tender 
parent might on being asked to cut off her baby's legs in order 
that it might fit into a new cradle, she looked at the market? 
passages, and was surprised to find that all the moral reflections 
which she had carefully put in as ballast for much romance 
had been stricken out. 

" But, sir, I thought every story should have some sort of a 
moral, so I took care to have a few of my sinners repent." 

Mr. Dashwood's editorial gravity relaxed into a smile, for Jo 
had forgotten her " friend," and spoken as only an author could. 

" People want to be amused, not preached at, you know. 
Morals don't sell nowadays ; " which was not quite a correct 
statement, by the way. 

" You think it would do with these alterations, then ? " 

" Yes ; it 's a new plot, and pretty well worked up language 
good, and so on," was Mr. Dashwood's affable reply. 

" What do you that is, what compensation " began Jo, 
not exactly knowing how to express herself. 

" Oh, yes, well, we give from twenty-five to thirty for things 
of this sort. Pay when it comes out," returned Mr. Dashwood. 
as if that point had escaped him; such trifles often do escape 
the editorial mind, it is said. 

" Very well ; you can have it." said Jo, handing back the story, 



LITTLE WOMEN 371 

with a satisfied air; for, after the dollar-a-column work, even 
twenty-five dollars seemed good pay. 

" Shall I tell my friend you will take another if she has one 
better than this ? " asked Jo, unconscious of her little slip of the 
tongue, and emboldened by her success. 

" Well, we '11 look at it ; can't promise to take it. Tell her to 
make it short and spicy, and never mind the moral. What name 
would your friend like to put to it ? " in a careless tone. 

" None at all, if you please ; she does n't wish her name to 
appear, and has no nom de plume" said Jo, blushing in spite 
of herself. 

" Just as she likes, of course. The tale will be out next week ; 
will you call for the money, or shall I send it ? " asked Mr. 
Dashwood, who felt a natural desire to know who his new 
contributor might be. 

" I '11 call. Good morning, sir." 

As she departed, Mr. Dashwood put up his feet, with the 
graceful remark, " Poor and proud, as usual, but she '11 do." 

Following Mr. Dashwood's directions, and making Mrs. 
Northbury her model, Jo rashly took a plunge into the frothy 
sea of sensational literature; but, thanks to the life-preserver 
thrown her by a friend, she came up again, not much worse 
for her ducking. 

Like most young scribblers, she went abroad for her 
characters and scenery ; and banditti, counts, gypsies, nuns, and 
duchesses appeared upon her stage, and played their parts with 
as much accuracy and spirit as could be expected. Her readers 
were not particular about such trifles as grammar, punctuation, 
and probability, and Mr. Dashwood graciously permitted her to 
fill his columns at the lowest prices, not thinking it necessary 
to tell her that the real cause of his hospitality was the fact 
that one of his hacks, on being offered higher wages, had basely 
left him in the lurch. 

She soon became interested in her work, for her emaciated 
purse grew stout, and the little hoard she was making to take 
Beth to the mountains next summer grew slowly but surely as 



372 LITTLE WOMEN 

the weeks passed. One thing disturbed her satisfaction, and 
that was that she did not tell them at home. She had a feeling 
that father and mother would not approve, and preferred to 
have her own way first, and beg pardon afterward. It was 
easy to keep her secret, for no name appeared with her stories ; 
Mr. Dashwood had, of course, found it out very soon, but 
promised to be dumb ; and, for a wonder, kept his word. 

She thought it would do her no harm, for she sincerely meant 
to write nothing of which she should be ashamed, and quieted 
all pricks of conscience by anticipations of the happy minute 
when she should show her earnings and laugh over her well-kept 
secret. 

But Mr. Dashwood rejected any but thrilling tales; and, as 
thrills could not be produced except by harrowing up the souls 
of the readers, history and romance, land and sea, science and 
art, police records and lunatic asylums, had to be ransacked for 
the purpose. Jo soon found that her innocent experience had 
given her but few glimpses of the tragic world which underlies 
society; so, regarding it in a business light, she set about 
supplying her deficiencies with characteristic energy. Eager to 
find material for stories, and bent on making them original 
in plot, if not masterly in execution, she searched newspapers 
for accidents, incidents, and crimes ; she excited the suspicions 
of public librarians by asking for works on poisons ; she studied 
faces in the street, and characters, good, bad, and indifferent, 
all about her; she delved in the dust of ancient times for facts 
or fictions so old that they were as good as new, and introduced 
herself to folly, sin, and misery, as well as her limited oppor- 
tunities allowed. She thought she was prospering finely; but, 
unconsciously, she was beginning to desecrate some of the 
womanliest attributes of a woman's character. She was living 
in bad society; and, imaginary though it was, its influence 
affected her, for she was feeding heart and fancy on dangerous 
and unsubstantial food, and was fast brushing the innocent 
bloom from her nature by a premature acquaintance with the 
darker side of life, which comes soon enough to all of us. 



UTTLE WOMEN 373 

She was beginning to feel rather than see this> for much 
describing of other people's passions and feelings set her to 
studying and speculating about her own, a morbid amuse- 
ment, in which healthy young minds do not voluntarily indulge. 
Wrong-doing always brings its own punishment; and, when 
Jo most needed hers, she got it. 

I don't know whether the study of Shakespeare helped her 
to read character, or the natural instinct of a woman for what 
was honest, brave, and strong; but while endowing her 
imaginary heroes with every perfection under the sun, Jo was 
discovering a live hero, who interested her in spite of many 
human imperfections. Mr. Bhaer, in one of their conversations, 
had advised her to study simple, true, and lovely characters, 
wherever she found them, as good training for a writer. 
Jo took him at his word, for she coolly turned round and studied 
him, a proceeding which would have much surprised him, 
had he known it, for the worthy Professor was very humble in 
his own conceit. 

Why everybody liked him was what puzzled Jo, at first. He 
was neither rich nor great, young nor handsome; in no respect 
what is called fascinating, imposing, or brilliant; and yet he 
was as attractive as a genial fire, and people seemed to gather 
about him as naturally as about a warm hearth. He was poor, 
yet always appeared to be giving something away; a stranger, 
yet every one was his friend ; no longer young, but as happy- 
hearted as a boy; plain and peculiar, yet his face looked 
beautiful to many, and his oddities were freely forgiven for 
his sake. Jo often watched him, trying to discover the charm, 
and, at last, decided that it was benevolence which worked the 
miracle. If he had any sorrow, " it sat with its head under its 
wing," and he turned only his sunny side to the world. There 
were lines upon his forehead, but Time seemed to have touched 
him gently, remembering how kind he was to others. The 
pleasant curves about his mouth were the memorials of many 
friendly words and cheery laughs: his eyes were never cold 



374 LITTLE WOMEN 

or hard, and his big hand had a warm, strong grasp that was 
more expressive than words. 

His very clothes seemed to partake of the hospitable nature 
of the wearer. They looked as if they were at ease, and liked 
to make him comfortable ; his capacious waistcoat was suggestive 
of a large heart underneath ; his rusty coat had a social air, and 
the baggy pockets plainly proved that little hands often went 
in empty and came out full; his very boots were benevolent, 
and his collar never stiff and raspy like other people's. 

" That 's it ! " said Jo to herself, when she at length discovered 
that genuine good-will towards one's fellow-men could beautify 
and dignify even a stout German teacher, who shovelled in his 
dinner, darned his own socks, and was burdened with the name 
of Bhaer. 

Jo valued goodness highly, but she also possessed a most 
feminine respect for intellect, and a little discovery which she 
made about the Professor added much to her regard for him< 
He never spoke of himself, and no one ever knew that in his 
native city he had been a man much honored and esteemed for 
learning and integrity, till a countryman came to see him, and, 
in a conversation with Miss Norton, divulged the pleasing fact. 
From her Jo learned it, and liked it all the better because 
Mr. Bhaer had never told it. She felt proud to know that he 
was an honored Professor in Berlin, though only a poor 
language-master in America; and his homely, hard-working 
life was much beautified by the spice of romance which this 
discovery gave it. 

Another and a better gift than intellect was shown her in a 
most unexpected manner. Miss Norton had the entree into 
literary society, which Jo would have had no chance of seeing 
but for her. The solitary woman felt an interest in the 
ambitious girl, and kindly conferred many favors of this sort 
both on Jo and the Professor. She took them with her, one 
night, to a select symposium, held in honor of several celebrities 

Jo went prepared to bow down and adore the mighty ones 
she had worshipped with youthful enthusiasm afar oft 



LITTLE WOMEN 375 

But her reverence for genius received a severe shock that night, 
and it took her some time to recover from the discovery that the 
great creatures were only men and women after all. Imagine 
her dismay, on stealing a glance of timid admiration at the poet 
whose lines suggested an ethereal being fed on " spirit, fire, and 
dew/ 7 to behold him devouring his supper with an ardor which 
flushed his intellectual countenance. Turning as from a fallen 
idol, she made other discoveries which rapidly dispelled her 
romantic illusions. The great novelist vibrated between two 
decanters with the regularity of a pendulum ; the famous divine 
flirted openly with one of the Madame de Staels of the age, 
who looked daggers at another Corinne, who was amiably 
satirizing her, after out-manoeuvering her in efforts to absorb 
the profound philosopher, who imbibed tea Johnsonianly and 
appeared to slumber, the loquacity of the lady rendering speech 
impossible. The scientific celebrities, forgetting their mollusks 
and glacial periods, gossiped about art, while devoting them- 
selves to oysters and ices with characteristic energy ; the young 
musician, who was charming the city like a second Orpheus, 
talked horses ; and the specimen of the British nobility present 
happened to be the most ordinary man of the party. 

Before the evening was half over, Jo felt so completely 
desillusionnee, that she sat down in a corner to recover herself. 
Mr. Bhaer soon joined her, looking rather out of his element, 
and presently several of the philosophers, each mounted on his 
hobby, came ambling up to hold an intellectual tournament in 
the recess. The conversation was miles beyond Jo's comprehen- 
sion, but she enjoyed it, though Kant and Hegel were unknown 
gods, the Subjective and Objective unintelligible terms ; and the 
only thing " evolved from her inner consciousness," was a bad 
headache after it was all over. It dawned upon her gradually 
that the world was being picked to pieces, and put together on 
new, and, according to the talkers, on infinitely better principles 
than before; that religion was in a fair way to be reasoned into 
nothingness, and intellect was to be the only God. Jo knew 
nothing about philosophy or metaphysics of any sort, but a 



376 LITTLE WOMEN 

<airious excitement, half pleasurable, half painful, came over 
her, as she listened with a sense of being turned adrift into 
time and space, like a young balloon out on a holiday. 

She looked round to see how the Professor liked it, and found 
him looking at her with the grimmest expression she had ever 
seen him wear. He shook his head, and beckoned her to come 
away; but she was fascinated, just then, by the freedom of 
Speculative Philosophy, and kept her seat, trying to find out 
what the wise gentlemen intended to rely upon after they had 
annihilated all the old beliefs. 

No, Mr. Bhaer was a diffident man, and slow to offer his own 
opinions, not because they were unsettled, but too sincere and 
earnest to be lightly spoken. As he glanced from Jo to several 
other young people, attracted by the brilliancy of the philosophic 
pyrotechnics, he knit his brows, and longed to speak, fearing 
that some inflammable young soul would be led astray by the 
rockets, to find, when the display was over, that they had only 
an empty stick or a scorched hand. 

He bore it as long as he could ; but when he was appealed to 
for an opinion, he blazed up with honest indignation, and 
defended religion with all the eloquence of truth, an eloquence 
which made his broken English musical, and his plain face 
beautiful. He had a hard fight, for the wise men argued well; 
but he did n't know when he was beaten, and stood to his colors 
like a man. Somehow, as he talked, the world got right again 
to Jo; the old beliefs, that had lasted so long, seemed better 
than the new ; God was not a blind force, and immortality was 
not a pretty fable, but a blessed fact. She felt as if she had 
solid ground under her feet again ; and when Mr. Bhaer paused, 
out-talked, but not one whit convinced, Jo wanted to clap her 
hands and thank him. 

She did neither; but she remembered this scene, and gave 
the Professor her heartiest respect, for she knew it cost him 
an effort to speak out then and there, because his conscience 
would not let him be silent. She began to see that character 
is a better possession than money, rank, intellect, or beauty; 



LITTLE WOMEN 377 

and to feel that if greatness is what a wise man has defined it 
to fee, "truth, reverence, and good will," then her friend 
Friedrich Bhaer was not only good, but great. 

This belief strengthened daily. She valued his esteem, she 
coveted his respect, she wanted to be worthy of his friendship ; 
and, just when the wish was sincerest, she came near losing 
everything. It all grew out of a cocked hat ; for one evening the 
Professor came in to give Jo her lesson, with a paper soldier-cap 
on his head, which Tina had put there, and he had forgotten 
to take off. 

" It 's evident he does n't look in his glass before coming 
down," thought Jo, with a smile, as he said " Goot efening," 
and sat soberly down, quite unconscious of the ludicrous 
contrast between his subject and his head-gear, for he was 
going to read her the " Death of Wallenstein." 

She said nothing at first, for she liked to hear him laugh out 
his big hearty laugh, when anything funny happened, so she 
left him to discover it for himself, and presently forgot all 
about it; for to hear a German read Schiller is rather an 
absorbing occupation. After the reading came the lesson, which 
was a lively one, for Jo was in a gay mood that night, and the 
cocked-hat kept her eyes dancing with merriment. The 
Professor did n't know what to make of her, and stopped at 
last, to ask, with an air of mild surprise that was irresistible, 

" Mees Marsch, for what do you laugh in your master's face? 
Haf you no respect for me, that you go on so bad ? " 

" How can I be respectful, sir, when you forget to take your 
hat off?" said Jo. 

Lifting his hand to his head, the absent-minded Professor 
gravely felt and removed the little cocked-hat, looked at it a 
minute, and then threw back his head, and laughed like a merry 
bass-viol. 

" Ah ! 1 see him now ; it is that imp Tina who makes me a fool 
with my cap. Well, it is nothing ; but see you, if this lesson goes 
not well, you too shall wear him." 

But the lesson did not go at all for a few minutes, because 



378 LITTLE WOMEN 

Mr. Bhaer caught sight of a picture on the hat, and, unfolding 
it, said, with an air of great disgust, 

" I wish these papers did not come in the house : they are not 
for children to see, nor young people to read. It is not well, 
and I haf no patience with those who make this harm." 

Jo glanced at the sheet, and saw a pleasing illustration 
composed of a lunatic, a corpse, a villain, and a viper. She did 
not like it ; but the impulse that made her turn it over was not 
of displeasure, but fear, because, for a minute, she fancied the 
paper was the " Volcano." It was not, however, and her panic 
subsided as she remembered that, even if it had been, and one 
of her own tales in it, there would have been no name to betray 
her. She had betrayed herself, however, by a look and a blush ; 
for, though an absent man, the Professor saw a good deal more 
than people fancied. He knew that Jo wrote, and had met her 
down among the newspaper offices more than once ; but as she 
never spoke of it, he asked no questions, in spite of a strong 
desire to see her work. Now it occurred to him that she was 
doing what she was ashamed to own, and it troubled him. He 
did not say to himself, " It is none of my business ; I 've no 
right to say anything," as many people would have done; he 
only remembered that she was young and poor, a girl far away 
from mother's love and father's care; and he was moved to 
help her with an impulse as quick and natural as that which 
would prompt him to put out his hand to save a baby from a 
puddle. All this flashed through his mind in a minute, but not 
a trace of it appeared in his face; and by the time the paper 
was turned, and Jo's needle threaded, he was ready to say quite 
naturally, but very gravely, 

" Yes, you are right to put it from you. I do not like to 
think that good young girls should see such things. They are 
made pleasant to some, but I would more rather give my boys 
gunpowder to play with than this bad trash." 

" All may not be bad, only silly, you know ; and if there is a 
demand for it, I don't see any harm in supplying it. Many 
very respectable people make an honest living out of what are 



LITTLE WOMEN 379 

called sensation stories," said Jo, scratching gathers so ener- 
getically that a row of little slits followed her pin. 

" There i'j a demand for whiskey, but I think you and I do 
not care to sell it. If the respectable people knew what harm 
they did, they would not feel that the living was honest. They 
haf no right to put poison in the sugar-plum, and let the small 
ones eat it. No; they should think a little, and sweep mud in 
the street before they do this thing." 

Mr. Bhaer spoke warmly, and walked to the fire, crumpling 
the paper in his hands. Jo sat still, looking as if the fire had 
come to her; for her cheeks burned long after the cocked hat 
had turned to smoke, and gone harmlessly up the chimney. 

" I should like much to send all the rest after him," muttered 
the Professor, coming back with a relieved air. 

Jo thought what a blaze her pile of papers upstairs would 
make, and her hard-earned money lay rather heavily on her 
conscience at that minute. Then she thought consolingly to 
herself, " Mine are not like that ; they are only silly, never bad, 
so I won't be worried ; " and taking up her book, she said, with 
a studious face, 

" Shall we go on, sir ? I '11 be very good and proper now." 

" I shall hope so," was all he said, but he meant more than 
she imagined; and the grave, kind look he gave her made her 
feel as if the words " Weekly Volcano " were printed in large 
type on her forehead. 

As soon as she went to her room, she got out her papers, and 
carefully re-read every one of her stories. Being a little short- 
sighted, Mr. Bhaer sometimes used eye-glasses, and Jo had 
tried them once, smiling to see how they magnified the fine print 
of her book; now she seemed to have got on the Professor's 
mental or moral spectacles also; for the faults of these poor 
stories glared at her dreadfully, and filled her with dismay. 

" They are trash, and will soon be worse than trash if 7 
go on ; for each is more sensational than the last. I 've gone 
blindly on, hurting myself and other people, for the sake of 
money; I know it 's so, for I can't read this stuff in sober earnest 



380 LITTLE WOMEN 

without being horribly ashamed of it; and what should 1 do it 
they were seen at home, or Mr. Bhaer got hold of them ? " 

Jo turned hot at the bare idea, and stuffed the whole bundle 
into her stove, nearly setting the chimney afire with the blaze. 

" Yes, that 's the best place for such inflammable nonsense ; 
I 'd better burn the house down, I suppose, than let other people 
blow themselves up with my gunpowder," she thought, as she 
watched the " Demon of the Jura " whisk away, a little black 
cinder with fiery eyes. 

But when nothing remained of all her three months' work 
except a heap of ashes, and the money in her lap, Jo looked 
sober, as she sat on the floor, wondering what she ought to 
do about her wages. 

" I think I haven't done much harm yet, and may keep this 
to pay for my time," she said, after a long meditation, adding 
impatiently, " I almost wish I had n't any conscience, it 's so 
inconvenient. If I did n't care about doing right, and did n't 
feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally. 
I can't help wishing sometimes, that father and mother had n't 
been so particular about such things." 

Ah, Jo, instead of wishing that, thank God that " father and 
mother were particular," and pity from your heart those who 
have no such guardians to hedge them round with principles 
which may seem like prison-walls to impatient youth, but which 
will prove sure foundations to build character upon in woman- 
hood. 

Jo wrote no more sensational stories, deciding that the money 
did not pay for her share of the sensation; but, going to the 
other extreme, as is the way with people of her stamp, she 
took a course of Mrs. Sherwood, Miss Edgeworth, and Hannah 
More; and then produced a tale which might have been more 
properly called an essay or a sermon, so intensely moral was it. 
She had her doubts about it from the beginning ; for her lively 
fancy and girlish romance felt as ill at ease in the new style as 
she would have done masquerading in the stiff and cumbrous 
costume of the last century. She sent this didactic gem to sev- 



LITTLE WOMEN 381 

eral markets, but it found no purchaser; and she was inclined 
to agree with Mr. Dashwood, that morals did n't sell. 

Then she tried a child's story, which she could easily have 
disposed of if she had not been mercenary enough to demand 
filthy lucre for it. The only person who offered enough to make 
it worth while to try juvenile literature was a worthy gentle- 
man who felt it his mission to convert all the world to his par- 
ticular belief. But much as she liked to write for children, 
Jo could not consent to depict all her naughty boys as being 
eaten by bears or tossed by mad bulls, because they did not 
go to a particular Sabbath-school, nor all the good infants, who 
did go, as rewarded by every kind of bliss, from gilded ginger- 
bread to escorts of angels, when they departed this life with 
psalms or sermons on their lisping tongues. So nothing came 
of these trials ; and Jo corked up her inkstand, and said, in a 
fit of very wholesome humility, 

" I don't know anything ; I '11 wait till I do before I 'd try 
again, and meantime, ' sweep mud in the street/ if I can't do 
better ; that 's honest, at least ; " which decision proved that 
her second tumble down the bean-stalk had done her some good. 

While these internal revolutions were going on, her external 
life had been as busy and uneventful as usual ; and if she some- 
times looked serious or a little sad no one observed it but Pro- 
fessor Bhaer. He did it so quietly that Jo never knew he was 
watching to see if she would accept and profit by his reproof ; 
but she stood the test, and he was satisfied; for, though no 
words passed between them, he knew that she had given up 
writing. Not only did he guess it by the fact that the second 
finger of her right hand was no longer inky, but she spent her 
evenings downstairs now, was met no more among newspaper 
offices, and studied with a dogged patience, which assured him 
that she was bent on occupying her mind with something useful, 
if not pleasant. 

He helped her in many ways, proving himself a true friend, 
and Jo was happy ; for, while her pen lay idle, she was learning 



382 LITTLE WOMEN 

other lessons beside German, and laying a foundation for the 
sensation story of her own life. 

It was a pleasant winter and a long one, for she did not leave 
Mrs. Kirke till June. Every one seemed sorry when the time 
came ; the children were inconsolable, and Mr. Bhaer's hair stuck 
straight up all over his head, for he always rumpled it wildly 
when disturbed in mind. 

" Going home ? Ah, you are happy that you haf a home 
to go in," he said, when she told him, and sat silently pulling his 
beard, in the corner, while she held a little levee on that last 
evening. 

She was going early, so she bade them all good-by over night ; 
and when his turn came, she said warmly, 

" Now, sir, you won't forget to come and see us, if you ever 
travel our way, will you ? I '11 never forgive you if you do, for 
I want them all to know my friend." 

" Do you ? Shall I come ? " he asked, looking down at her 
with an eager expression which she did not see. 

" Yes, come next month ; Laurie graduates then, and you 'd 
enjoy Commencement as something new." 

" That is your best friend of whom you speak ? " he said, 
in an altered tone. 

" Yes, my boy Teddy ; I m very proud of him, and should 
like you to see him." 

Jo looked up then, quite unconscious of anything but her 
own pleasure in the prospect of showing them to one another. 
Something in Mr. Bhaer's face suddenly recalled the fact that 
she might find Laurie more than a " best friend," and, simply 
because she particularly wished not to look as if anything was 
the matter, she involuntarily began to blush ; and the more she 
tried not to, the redder she grew. If it had not been for Tina 
on her knee, she did n't know what would have become of her. 
Fortunately, the child was moved to hug her; so she managed 
to hide her face an instant, hoping the Professor did not see it. 
But he did, and his own changed again from that momentary 
anxiety to its usual expression, as he said cordially, 






LITTLE WOMEN 383 

" I fear I shall not make the time for that, but I wish the 
friend much success, and you all happiness. Gott bless you ! " 
and with that, he shook hands warmly, shouldered Tina, and 
went away. 

But after the boys were abed, he sat long before his fire, with 
the tired look on his face, and the " heimweh," or homesickness, 
lying heavy at his heart. Once, when he remembered Jo, as she 
sat with the little child in her lap and that new softness in her 
face, he leaned his head on his hands a minute, and then roamed 
about the room, as if in search of something that he could not 
find. 

" It is not for me ; I must not hope it now," he said to him- 
self, with a sigh that was almost a groan ; then, as if reproach- 
ing himself for the longing that he could not repress, he went 
and kissed the two towzled heads upon the pillow, took down 
his seldom used meerschaum, and opened his Plato. 

He did his best, and did it manfully; but I don't think he 
found that a pair of rampant boys, a pipe, or even the divine 
Plato, were very satisfactory substitutes for wife and child 
and home. 

Early as it was, he was at the station, next morning, to see 
Jo off; and, thanks to him, she began her solitary journey with 
the pleasant memory of a familiar face smiling its farewell, 
a bunch of violets to keep her company, and, best of all, the 
happy thought, 

" Well, the winter's gone, and I 've written no books, earned 
no fortune ; but I Ve made a friend worth having and I '11 try 
to keep him all my life." 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

HEARTACHE. 

WHATEVER his motive might have been, Laurie studied to 
some purpose that year, for he graduated with honor, and gave 



384 LITTLE WOMEN 

the Latin oration with the grace of a Phillips and the eloquence 
of a Demosthenes, so his friends said. They were all there, 
his grandfather, oh, so proud ! Mr, and Mrs. March, John 
and Meg, Jo and Beth, and all exulted over him with the sincere 
admiration which boys make light of at the time, but fail to 
win from the world by any after-triumphs. 

" I Ve got to stay for this confounded supper, but I shall be 
home early to-morrow ; you '11 come and meet me as usual, 
girls ? " Laurie said, as he put the sisters into the carriage after 
the joys of the day were over. He said " girls," but he meant 
Jo, for she was the only one who kept up the old custom; she 
had not the heart to refuse her splendid, successful boy any- 
thing, and answered warmly, 

" I '11 come, Teddy, rain or shine, and march before you, play- 
ing ' Hail the conquering hero comes! on a jews-harp." 

Laurie thanked her with a look that made her think, in & 
sudden panic, " Oh, deary me 1 I know he '11 say something, 
and then what shall I do ? " 

Evening meditation and morning work somewhat allayed her 
fears, and having decided that she would n't be vain enough to 
think people were going to propose when she had given them 
every reason to know what her answer would be, she set forth 
at the appointed time, hoping Teddy would n't do anything to 
make her hurt his poor little feelings. A call at Meg's, and a 
refreshing sniff and sip at the Daisy and Demijohn, still further 
fortified her for the tete-a-tete, but when she saw a stalwart 
figure looming in the distance, she had a strong desire to turn 
about and run away. 

" Where 's the jews-harp, Jo?" cried Laurie, as soon as he 
was within speaking distance. 

" I forgot it ; " and Jo took heart again, for that salutation 
could not be called lover-like. 

She always used to take his arm on these occasions, now she 
did not, and he made no complaint, which was a bad sign, but 
talked on rapidly about all sorts of far-away subjects, till they 
turned from the road into the little path that led homeward 







LITTLE WOMEN 385 

through the grove. Then he walked more slowly, suddenly 
lost his fine flow of language, and, now and then, a dreadful 
pause occurred. To rescue the conversation from one of the 
wells of silence into which it kept falling, Jo said hastily, 

" Now you must have a good long holiday ! " 

" I intend to." 

Something in his resolute tone made Jo look up quickly to 
find him looking down at her with an expression that assured 
her the dreaded moment had come, and made her put out her 
hand with an imploring, 

"No, Teddy, please don't 1" 

" I will, and you must hear me. It 's no use, Jo ; we 've got 
to have it out, and the sooner the better for both of us," he 
answered, getting flushed and excited all at once. 

" Say what you like then ; I '11 listen," said Jo, with a desperate 
sort of patience. 

Laurie was a young lover, but he was in earnest, and meant 
to " have it out," if he died in the attempt ; so he plunged into 
the subject with characteristic impetuosity, saying in a voice 
that would get choky now and then, in spite of manful efforts to 
keep it steady, 

" I 've loved you ever since I Ve known you, Jo ; could n't 
help it, you 've been so good to me. I 've tried to show it, but 
you would n't let me ; now I 'm going to make you hear, and 
give me an answer, for I can't go on so any longer." 

" I wanted to save you this ! I thought you 'd understand " 
began Jo, finding it a great deal harder than she expected, 

" I know you did ; but girls are so queer you never know 
what they mean. They say No when they mean Yes, and drive 
a man out of his wits just for the fun of it," returned Laurie, 
entrenching himself behind an undeniable fact. 

" / don't. I never wanted to make you care for me so, and 
I went away to keep you from it if I could." 

" I thought so ; it was like you, but it was no use. I only 
loved you all the more, and I worked hard to please you, and 
I gave up billiards and everything you did n't like, and waited 



386 LITTLE WOMEN 

and never complained, for I hoped you 'd love me, though I 'm 
not hall good enough " here there was a choke that could n't. 
be controlled, so he decapitated buttercups while he cleared his 
" confounded throat." 

" Yes, you are ; you 're a great deal too good for me, and 
I 'm grateful to you, and so proud and fond of you, I don't see 
why I can't love you as you want me to. I 've tried, but I can't 
change the feeling, and it would be a lie to say I do when I 
don't." 

"Really, truly, Jo?" 

He stopped short, and caught both her hands as he put his 
question with a look that she did not soon forget. 

" Really, truly, dear." 

They were in the grove now, close by the stile ; and when the 
last words fell reluctantly from Jo's lips, Laurie dropped her 
hands and turned as if to go on, but for once in his life that 
fence was too much for him ; so he just laid his head down on 
the mossy post, and stood so still that Jo was frightened. 

" O Teddy, I 'm sorry, so desperately sorry, I could kill 
myself if it would do any good ! I wish you would n't take it 
so hard. I can't help it ; you know it 's impossible for people 
to make themselves love other people if they don't," cried Jo 
inelegantly but remorsefully, as she softly patted his shoulder, 
remembering the time when he had comforted her so long ago. 

" They do sometimes," said a muffled voice from the post. 

" I don't believe it 's the right sort of love, and I 'd rather 
not try it," was the decided answer. 

There was a long pause, while a blackbird sung blithely on 
the willow by the river, and the tall grass rustled in the wind. 
Presently Jo said very soberly, as she sat down on the step of 
the stile, 

" Laurie, I want to tell you something." 

He started as if he had been shot, threw up his head, and 
cried out, in a fierce tone 

" Don't tell me that, Jo ; I can't bear it now ! " 

" Tell what ? " she asked, wondering at his violence. 



LITTLE WOMEN 387 

" That jou love that old man." 

" What old man ? " demanded Jo, thinking he must mean his 
grandfather. 

" That devilish Professor you were always writing about. If 
you say you love him, I know I shall do something desperate; " 
and he looked as if he would keep his word, as he clenched 
his hands, with a wrathful spark in his eyes. 

Jo wanted to laugh, but restrained herself, and said warmly, 
for she, too, was getting excited with all this, 

" Don't swear, Teddy ! He is n't old, nor anything bad, but 
good and kind, and the best friend I 've got, next to you. Pray, 
don't fly into a passion ; I want to be kind, but I know I shall 
get angry if you abuse my Professor. I have n't the least idea 
of loving him or anybody else." 

" But you will after a while, and then what will become of 
me?" 

" You '11 love some one else too, like a sensible boy, and for- 
get all this trouble." 

" I can't love any one else ; and I '11 never forget you, Jo, 
never ! never ! " with a stamp to emphasize his passionate words. 

" What shall I do with him ? " sighed Jo, rinding that emo- 
tions were more unmanageable than she expected. " You 
haven't heard what I wanted to tell you. Sit down and listen; 
for indeed I want to do right and make you happy," she said, 
hoping to soothe him with a little reason, which proved that she 
knew nothing about love. 

Seeing a ray of hope in that last speech, Laurie threw himself; 
down on the grass at her feet, leaned his arm on the lower step 
of the stile, and looked up at her with an expectant face. Now 
that arrangement was not conducive to calm speech or clear 
thought on Jo's part ; for how could she say hard things to her 
boy while he watched her with eyes full of love and longing, 
and lashes still wet with the bitter drop or two her hardness of 
heart had wrung from him ? She gently turned his head away, 
saying, as she stroked the wavy hair which had been allowed 
to grow for her sake. how touching that was, to be sure ! 



38S LITTLE WOMEN 

" I agree with mother that you and I are not suited to each 
other, because our quick tempers and strong wills would prob- 
ably make us very miserable, if we were so foolish as to " Jo 
paused a little over the last word, but Laurie uttered it with a 
rapturous expression, 

" Marry, no, we should n't! If you loved me, Jo, I should 
be a perfect saint, for you could make me anything you like." 

" No, I can't. I Ve tried it and failed, and I won't risk our 
happiness by such a serious experiment. We don't agree and 
we never shall ; so we '11 be good friends all our lives, but we 
won't go and do anything rash." 

" Yes, we will if we get the chance," muttered Laurie re- 
belliously. 

" Now do be reasonable, and take a sensible view of the case," 
implored Jo, almost at her wit's end. 

" I won't be reasonable ; I don't want to take what you call 
% a sensible view ; ' it won't help me, and it only makes you 
harder. I don't believe you 've got any heart." 

"I wish I had n't!" 

There was a little quiver in Jo's voice, and, thinking it a 
good omen, Laurie turned round, bringing all his persuasive 
powers to bear as he said, in the wheedlesome tone that had 
never been so dangerously wheedlesome before, 

"Don't disappoint us, dear ! Every one expects it. Grandpa 
has set his heart upon it, your people like it, and I can't get 
on without you. Say you will, and let 's be happy. Do, do ! " 

Not until months afterward did Jo understand how she had 
the strength of mind to hold fast to the resolution she had 
made when she decided that she did not love her boy, and never 
could. It was very hard to do, but she did it, knowing that 
delay was both useless and cruel. 

" I can't say ' Yes ' truly, so I won't say it at all. You '11 
see that I 'm right, by and by, and thank me for it " she began 
solemnly. 

" I '11 be hanged if I do ! " and Laurie bounced up off the 
grass, burning with indignation at the bare idea. 



LITTLE WOMEN 389 

"Yes, you will!" persisted Jo; "you'll get over this after 
a while, and find some lovely, accomplished girl, who will adore 
you, and make a fine mistress for your fine house. I should n't. 
I 'm homely and awkward and odd and old r and you 'd be 
ashamed of me, and we should quarrel, we can't help it even 
now, you see, and I shouldn 't like elegant society and you 
would, and you 'd hate my scribbling, and I could n't get on 
without it, and we should be unhappy, and wish we had n't 
done it, and everything would be horrid ! " 

" Anything more ? " asked Laurie, finding it hard to listen 
patiently to this prophetic burst. 

" Nothing more, except that I don't believe I shall ever 
marry. I 'm happy as I am, and love my liberty too well to be 
in any hurry to give it up for any mortal man." 

" I know better ! " broke in Laurie. " You think so now ; 
but there '11 come a time when you will care for somebody, and 
you '11 love him tremendously, and live and die for him. I know 
you will, it 's your way, and I shall have to stand by and see 
it ; " and the despairing lover cast his hat upon the ground with 
a gesture that would have seemed comical, if his face had not 
been so tragical. 

" Yes, I will live and die for him, if he ever comes and makes 
me love him in spite of myself, and you must do the best you 
can ! " cried Jo, losing patience with poor Teddy. " I 've done 
my best, but you won't be reasonable, and it "s selfish of you to 
keep teasing for what I can't give. I shall always be fond of 
you, very fond indeed, as a friend, but I '11 never marry you ; 
and the sooner you believe it the better for both of us, so 
now ! " 

That speech was like fire to gunpowder. Laurie looked at 
her a minute as if he did not quite know what to do with him- 
self, then turned sharply away, saying, in a desperate sort of 
tone, 

" You '11 be sorry some day, Jo." 

"Oh, where are you going?" she cried, for his face fright- 
ened her. 



390 LITTLE WOMEN 

" To the devil.' " was the consoling answer. 

For a minute Jo's heart st<)od still, as he swung himself o!own 
the bank, toward the river; but it takes much folly, sin, or 
misery to send a young man to a violent death, and Laurie was 
not one of the weak sort who are conquered by a single failure, 
He had no thought of a melodramatic plunge, but some blind 
instinct led him to fling hat and coat into his boat, and row away 
with all his might, making better time up the river than he had 
done in many a race. Jo drew a long breath and unclasped her 
hands as she watched the poor fellow trying to outstrip the 
trouble which he carried in his heart. 

" That will do him good, and he '11 come home in such a 
tender, penitent state of mind, that I sha'n't dare to see him," 
she said; adding, as she went slowly home, feeling as if she 
had murdered some innocent thing, and buried it under the 
leaves, 

" Now I must go and prepare Mr. Laurence to be very kind 
to my poor boy. I wish he 'd love Beth ; perhaps he may, in 
time, but I begin to think I was mistaken about her. Oh dear ! 
how can girls like to have lovers and refuse them. I think it 's 
dreadful." 

Being sure that no one could do it so well as herself, she 
went straight to Mr. Laurence, told the hard story bravely 
through, and then broke down, crying so dismally over her 
own insensibility that the kind old gentleman, though sorely 
disappointed, did not utter a reproach. He found it difficult 
to understand how any girl could help loving Laurie, and hoped 
she would change her mind, but he knew even better than Jo 
that love cannot be forced, so he shook his head sadly, and 
resolved to carry his boy out of harm's way; for Young Im- 
petuosity's parting words to Jo disturbed him more than he 
would confess. 

When Laurie came home, dead tired, but quite composed, 
his grandfather met him as if he knew nothing, and kept up 
the delusion very successfully for an hour or two. But when 
they sat together in the twilight, the time they used to enjoy 



LITTLE WOMEN 391 

so much, it was hard work for the old man to ramble on as 
usual, and harder still for the young one to listen to praises of 
the last year's success, which to him now seemed love's labor 
lost. He bore it as long as he could, then went to his piano, 
and began to play. The windows were open; and Jo, walking 
in the garden with Beth, for once understood music better than 
her sister, for he played the " Sonata Pathetique," and played 
it as he never did before. 

" That 's very fine, I dare say, but it 's sad enough to make 
one cry; give us something gayer, lad" said Mr. Laurence, 
whose kind old heart was full of sympathy, which he longed to 
show, but knew not how. 

Laurie dashed into a livelier strain, played stormily for sev- 
eral minutes, and would have got through bravely, if, in a mo- 
mentary lull, Mrs. March's voice had not been heard calling, 

" Jo, dear, come in ; I want you." 

Just what Laurie longed to say, with a different meaning! 
As he listened, he lost his place ; the music ended with a broken 
chord, and the musician sat silent in the dark. 

" I can't stand this," muttered the old gentleman. Up he got, 
groped his way to the piano, laid a kind hand on either of the 
broad shoulders, and said, as gently as a woman, 

" I know, my boy, I know." 

No answer for an instant; then Laurie asked sharply, 

"Who told you?" 

" Jo herself." 

" Then there 's an end of it ! " and he shook off his grand- 
father's hands with an impatient motion; for, though grateful 
for the sympathy, his man's pride could not bear a man's pity. 

" Not quite ; I want to say one thing, and then there shall 
be an end of it," returned Mr. Laurence, with unusual mildness. 
" You won't care to stay at home just now, perhaps ? " 

" I don't intend to run away from a girl. Jo can't prevent 
my seeing her, and I shall stay and do it as long as I like/' 
interrupted Laurie, in a defiant tone. 

" Not if you are the gentleman I think you. I 'm disap- 



392 LITTLE WOMEN 

pointed, but the girl can't help it ; and the only thing left for 
you to do is to go away for a time. Where will you go ? '* 

" Anywhere. I don't care what becomes of me ; " and Laurie 
got up, with a reckless laugh, that grated on his grandfather's 
ear. 

" Take it like a man, and don't do anything rash, for God's 
sake. Why not go abroad, as you planned, and forget it ? " 

" I can't." 

" But you 've been wild to go, and I promised you should 
when you got through college." 

" Ah, but I did n't mean to go alone ! " and Laurie walked fast 
through the room, with an expression which it was well his 
grandfather did not see. 

" I don't ask you to go alone ; there 's some one ready and 
glad to go with you, anywhere in the world." 

" Who, sir ? " stopping to listen. 

" Myself." 

Laurie came back as quickly as he went, and put out his hand, 
saying huskily, 

"I'm a selfish brute ; but you know grandfather " 

" Lord help me, yes, I do know, for I Ve been through it 
all before, once in my own young days, and then with your 
father. Now, my dear boy, just sit quietly down, and hear my 
plan. It 's all settled, and can be carried out at once," said 
Mr. Laurence, keeping hold of the young man, as if fearful that 
he would break away, as his father had done before him. 

" Well, sir, what is it ? " and Laurie sat down, without a sign 
of interest in face or voice. 

" There is business in London that needs looking after ; I 
meant you should attend to it; but I can do it better myself, 
and things here will get on very well with Brooke to manage 
them. My partners do almost everything ; I 'm merely holding 
on till you take my place, and can be off at any time." 

" But you hate travelling, sir ; I can't ask it of you at your 
age/' began Laurie, who was grateful for the sacrifice, but much 
preferred to go alone, if he went at all. 



LITTLE WOMEN 393 

The old gentleman knew that perfectly well, and particularly 
desired to prevent it ; for the mood in which he found his grand- 
son assured him that it would not be wise to leave him to his 
own devices. So, stifling a natural regret at the thought of the 
home comforts he would leave behind him, he said stoutly, 

" Bless your soul, I 'm not superannuated yet. I quite enjoy 
the idea ; it will do me good, and my old bones won't suffer, for 
travelling nowadays is almost as easy as sitting in a chair." 

A restless movement from Laurie suggested that his chair 
was not easy, or that he did not like the plan, and made the 
old man add hastily, 

" I don't mean to be a marplot or a burden ; I go because I 
think you 'd feel happier than if I was left behind. I don't 
intend to gad about with you, but leave you free to go where 
you like, while I amuse myself in my own way. I 've friends 
in London and Paris, and should like to visit them; meantime 
you can go to Italy, Germany, Switzerland, where you will, and 
enjoy pictures, music, scenery, and adventures to your heart's 
content." 

Now, Laurie felt just then that his heart was entirely broken, 
and the world a howling wilderness; but at the sound of cer- 
tain words which the old gentleman artfully introduced into 
his closing sentence, the broken heart gave an unexpected leap, 
and a green oasis or two suddenly appeared in the howling 
wilderness. He sighed, and then said, in a spiritless tone, 

" Just as you like, sir ; it does n't matter where I go or what 
I do." 

" It does to me, remember that, my lad ; I give you entire 
liberty, but I trust you to make an honest use of it. Promise 
me that, Laurie." 

" Anything you like, sir." 

" Good," thought the old gentleman. " You don't care now, 
but there '11 come a time when that promise will keep you out 
of mischief, or I 'm much mistaken." 

Being an energetic individual, Mr Laurence struck while the 
iron was hot; and before the blighted being recovered spirit 



394 LITTLE WOMEN 

enough to rebel, they were off. During the time necessary for 
preparation, Laurie bore himself as young gentleman usually 
do in such cases. He was moody, irritable, and pensive by 
turns; lost his appetite, neglected his dress, and devoted much 
time to playing tempestuously on his piano; avoided Jo, but 
consoled himself by staring at her from his window, with a 
tragical face that haunted her dreams by night, and oppressed 
her with a heavy sense of guilt by day. Unlike some sufferers, 
he never spoke of his unrequited passion, and would allow no 
one, not even Mrs. March, to attempt consolation or offer 
sympathy. On some accounts, this was a relief to his friends ; 
but the weeks before his departure were very uncomfortable, 
and every one rejoiced that the " poor, dear fellow was going 
away to forget his trouble, and come home happy." Of course, 
he smiled darkly at their delusion, but passed it by, with the 
sad superiority of one who knew that his fidelity, like his love, 
was unalterable. 

When the parting came he affected high spirits, to conceal cer- 
tain inconvenient emotions which seemed inclined to assert 
themselves. This gayety did not impose upon anybody, but 
they tried to look as if it did, for his sake, and he got on very 
well till Mrs. March kissed him, with a whisper full of motherly 
solicitude ; then, feeling that he was going very fast, he hastily 
embraced them all around, not forgetting the afflicted Hannah, 
and ran downstairs as if for his life. Jo followed a minute 
after to wave her hand to him if he looked round. He did look 
round, came back, put his arms about her, as she stood on the 
step above him, and looked up at her with a face that made his 
short appeal both eloquent and pathetic. 

"O Jo, can't you?" 

"Teddy, dear, I wish I could!" 

That was all, except a little pause ; then Laurie straightened 
himself up, said " It 's all right, never mind," and went away 
without another word. Ah, but it was n't all right, and Jo did 
mind ; for while the curly head lay on her arm a minute after 
her hard answer, she felt as if she had stabbed her dearest 




He put his arms about her, as she stood on the step 
above him. Page 394. 



LITTLE WOMEN 395 

friend; and when he left her without a look behind him, she 
knew that the boy Laurie never would come again. 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 
BETH'S SECRET. 

WHEN Jo came home that spring, she had been struck with 
the change in Beth. No one spoke of it or seemed aware of it, 
for it had come too gradually to startle those who saw her daily ; 
but to eyes sharpened by absence, it was very plain; and a 
heavy weight fell on Jo's heart as she saw her sister's face. It 
was no paler and but little thinner than in the autumn ; yet there 
was a strange, transparent look about it, as if the mortal was 
being slowly refined away, and the immortal shining through 
the frail flesh with an indescribably pathetic beauty. Jo saw 
and felt it, but said nothing at the time and, soon the first im- 
pression lost much of its power ; for Beth seemed happy, no one 
appeared to doubt that she was better ; and, presently, in other 
cares, Jo for a time forgot her fear. 

But when Laurie was gone, and peace prevailed again, the 
vague anxiety returned and haunted her. She had confessed her 
sins and been forgiven; but when she showed her savings 
and proposed the mountain trip, Beth had thanked her heartily, 
but begged not to go so far away from home. Another little 
visit to the seashore would suit her better, and, as grandma 
could not be prevailed upon to leave the babies, Jo took Beth 
down to the quiet place, where she could live much in the open 
air, and let the fresh sea-breezes blow a little color into her 
pale cheeks. 

It was not a fashionable place, but, even among the pleasant 
people there, the girls made few friends, preferring to live 
for one another. Beth was too shy to enjoy society, and Jo too 
wrapped up in her to care for any one else ; so they were all in 
all to each other, and came and went, quite unconscious of the 



.596 LITTLE WOMEN 

interest they excited in those about them, who watched with 
sympathetic eyes the strong sister and the feeble one, always 
together, as if they felt instinctively that a long separation was 
not far away. 

They did feel it, yet neither spoke of it; for often between 
ourselves and those nearest and dearest to us there exists a 
reserve which it is very hard to overcome. Jo felt as if a 
veil had fallen between her heart and Beth's; but when she 
put out her hand to lift it up, there seemed something sacred 
in the silence, and waited for Beth to speak. She wondered, 
and was thankful also, that her parents did not seem to see 
what she saw; and, during the quiet weeks, when the shadow 
grew so plain to her, she said nothing of it to those at home, 
believing that it would tell itself when Beth came back no better. 
She wondered still more if her sister really guessed the hard 
truth, and what thoughts were passing through her mind during 
the long hours when she lay on the warm rocks, with her head 
in Jo's lap, while the winds blew healthfully over her, and the 
sea made music at her feet. 

One day Beth told her. Jo thought she was asleep, she lay 
so still; and, putting down her book, sat looking at her with 
wistful eyes, trying to see signs of hope in the faint color on 
Beth's cheeks. But she could not find enough to satisfy her, 
for the cheeks were very thin, and the hands seemed too feeble 
to hold even the rosy little shells they had been gathering. It 
came to her then more bitterly than ever that Beth was slowly 
drifting away from her, and her arms instinctively tightened 
their hold upon the dearest treasure she possessed. For a minute 
her eyes were too dim for seeing, and, when they cleared, Beth 
was looking up at her so tenderly that there was hardly any 
need for her to say, 

" Jo, dear, I 'm glad you know it. I 've tried to tell you, but 
I could n't." 

There was no answer except her sister's cheek against her 
own, not even tears ; for when most deeply moved, Jo did not 
cry. She was the weaker, then, and Beth tried to comfort and 



LITTLE WOMEN 397 

sustain her, with her arms about her, and the soothing wdrds 
she whispered in her ear. 

" I 've known it for a good while, dear, and, now I 'm used 
to it, it is n't hard to think of or to bear. Try to see it so, 
and don't be troubled about me, because it 's best ; indeed it is." 

" Is this what made you so unhappy in the autumn, Beth ? 
You did not feel it then, and keep it to yourself so long, did 
you ? " asked Jo refusing to see or say that it was best, but 
glad to know that Laurie had no part in Beth's trouble. 

" Yes, I gave up hoping then, but I did n't like to own it. 
I tried to think it was a sick fancy, and would not let it trouble 
any one. But when I saw you all so well and strong, and full 
of happy plans, it was hard to feel that I could never be like 
you, and then I was miserable, Jo." 

" O Beth, and you did n't tell me, did n't let me comfort and 
help you ! How could you shut me out, and bear it all alone ? " 

Jo's voice was full of tender reproach, and her heart ached 
to think of the solitary struggle that must have gone on while 
Beth learned to say good-by to health, love, and life, and take 
up her cross so cheerfully. 

" Perhaps it was wrong, but I tried to do right ; I was n't 
sure, no one said anything, and I hoped I was mistaken. It 
would have been selfish to frighten you all when Marmee was 
so anxious about Meg, and Amy away, and you so happy with 
Laurie, at least, I thought so then." 

" And I thought that you loved him, Beth, and I went away 
because I could n't," cried Jo, glad to say all the truth. 

Beth looked so amazed at the idea that Jo smiled in spite of 
her pain, and added softly, 

" Then you did n't, deary ? I was afraid it was so, and 
imagined your poor little heart full of love-lornity all that 
while." 

" Why, Jo, how could I, when he was so fond of you ? " 
asked Beth, as innocently as a child. " I do love him dearly ; 
he is so good to me, how can I help it ? But he never could ^e 



398 LITTLE WOMEN 

anything to me but my brother. I hope he truly will be, some- 
time." 

" Not through me," said Jo decidedly. " Amy is left for him, 
and they would suit excellently; but I have no heart for such 
things, now. I don't care what becomes of anybody but you, 
Beth. You must get well." 

" I want to, oh, so much ! I try, but every day I lose a little, 
and feel more sure that I shall never gain it back. It's like the 
tide, Jo, when it turns, it goes slowly, but it can't be stopped." 

" It shall be stopped, your tide must not turn so soon, nine- 
teen is too young. Beth, I can't let you go. I '11 work and 
pray and fight against it. I '11 keep you in spite of everything ; 
there must be ways, it can't be too late. God won't be so cruel 
as to take you from me," cried poor Jo rebelliously, for her spirit 
was far less piously submissive than Beth's. 

Simple, sincere people seldom speak much of their piety; it 
shows itself in acts, rather than in words, and has more influence 
than homilies or protestations. Beth could not reason upon or 
explain the faith that gave her courage and patience to give up 
life, and cheerfully wait for death. Like a confiding child, she 
asked no questions, but left everything to God and nature, 
Father and mother of us all, feeling sure that they, and they 
only, could teach and strengthen heart and spirit for this life 
and the life to come. She did not rebuke Jo with saintly 
speeches, only loved her better for her passionate affection, and 
clung more closely to the dear human love, from which our 
Father never means us to be weaned, but through which He 
draws us closer to Himself. She could not say, " I 'm glad 
to go," for life was very sweet to her ; she could only sob out, 
" I try to be willing," while she held fast to Jo, as the first bitter 
wave of this great sorrow broke over them together. 

By and by Beth said, with recovered serenity, 

" You '11 tell them this when we go home ? " 

" I think they will see it without words," sighed Jo ; for now 
it seemed to her that Beth changed every day. 

" Perhaps not ; I 've heard that the people who love best are 



LITTLE WOMEN 399 

often blindest to such things. If they don't see it, you will tell 
them for rne. I don't want any secrets, and it 's kinder to pre- 
pare them. Meg has John and the babies to comfort her, but 
you must stand by father and mother, won't you, Jo ? " 

" If I can, but, Beth, I don't give up yet; I 'm going to be- 
lieve that it is a sick fancy, and not let you think it 's true," 
said Jo, trying to speak cheerfully. 

Beth lay a minute thinking, and then said in her quiet way, 

" I don't know how to express myself, and should n't try to 
any one but you, because I can't speak out, except to my Jo. 
I only mean to say that I have a feeling that it never was in- 
tended I should live long. I 'm not like the rest of you ; I never 
made any plans about what I 'd do when I grew up ; I never 
thought of being married, as you all did. I could n't seem to 
imagine myself anything but stupid little Beth, trotting about at 
home, of no use anywhere but there. I never wanted to go 
away, and the hard part now is the leaving you all. I 'm not 
afraid, but it seems as if I should be homesick for you even in 
heaven." 

Jo could not speak; and for several minutes there was no 
sound but the sigh of the wind and the lapping of the tide. A 
white- winged gull flew by, with the flash of sunshine on its 
silvery breast; Beth watched it till it vanished, and her eyes 
were full of sadness. A little gray-coated sand-bird came trip- 
ping over the beach, " peeping " softly to itself, as if enjoying 
the sun and sea ; it came quite close to Beth, looked at her with 
a friendly eye, and sat upon a warm stone, dressing its wet 
feathers, quite at home. Beth smiled, and felt comforted, for 
the tiny thing seemed to offer its small friendship, and remind 
her that a pleasant world was still to be enjoyed. 

" Dear little bird ! See, Jo, how tame it is. I like peeps 
better than the gulls : they are not so wild and handsome, but 
they seem happy, confiding little things. I used to call them my 
birds, last summer ; and mother said they reminded her of me, 
busy, quaker-colored creatures, always near the shore, and 
always chirping that contented little song of theirs. You are 



400 LITTLE WOMEN 

the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, 
flying far out to sea, and happy all alone. Meg is the turtle- 
dove, and Amy is like the lark she writes about, trying to get 
up among the clouds, but always dropping down into its nest 
again. Dear little girl ! she 's so ambitious, but her heart is good 
and tender; and no matter how high she flies, she never will 
forget home. I hope I shall see her again, but she seems so far 
away." 

" She is coming in the spring, and I mean that you shall be 
all ready to see and enjoy her. I 'm going to have you well and 
rosy by that time," began Jo, feeling that of all the changes in 
Beth, the talking change was the greatest, for it seemed to cost 
no effort now, and she thought aloud in a way quite unlike 
bashful Beth. 

" Jo, dear, don't hope any more ; it won't do any good, I 'm 
sure of that. We won't be miserable, but enjoy being together 
while we wait. We'll have happy times, for I don't suffer 
much, and I think the tide will go out easily, if you help me." 

Jo leaned down to kiss the tranquil face ; and with that silent 
kiss, she dedicated herself soul and body to Beth. 

She was right: there was no need of any words when they 
got home, for father and mother saw plainly, now, what they 
had prayed to be saved from seeing. Tired with her short 
journey, Beth went at once to bed, saying how glad she was to 
be at home ; and when Jo went down, she found that she would 
be spared the hard task of telling Beth's secret. Her father 
stood leaning his head on the mantel-piece, and did not turn 
as she came in ; but her mother stretched out her arms as if for 
help, and Jo went to comfort her without a word. 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 

NEW IMPRESSIONS. 

AT three o'clock in the afternoon, all the fashionable world 
et Nice may be seen on the Promenade des Anglais, a charm- 



LITTLE WOMEN 401 

ing place ; for the wide walk, bordered with palms, flowers, and 
tropical shrubs, is bounded on one side by the sea, on the other 
by the grand drive, lined with hotels and villas, while beyond 
lie orange-orchards and the hills. Many nations are repre- 
sented, many languages spoken, many costumes worn; and, on 
a sunny day, the spectacle is as gay and brilliant as a carnival. 
Haughty English, lively French, sober Germans, handsome 
Spaniards, ugly Russians, meek Jews, free-and-easy Americans, 
all drive, sit, or saunter here, chatting over the news, and criticis- 
ing the latest celebrity who has arrived, Ristori or Dickens, 
Victor Emmanuel or the Queen of the Sandwich Islands. The 
equipages are as varied as the company, and attract as much 
attention, especially the low basket-barouches in which ladies 
drive themselves, with a pair of dashing ponies, gay nets to keep 
their voluminous flounces from overflowing the diminutive 
vehicles, and little grooms on the perch behind. 

Along this walk, on Christmas Day, a tall young man walked 
slowly, with his hands behind him, and a somewhat absent ex- 
pression of countenance. He looked like an Italian, was dressed 
like an Englishman, and had the independent air of an Ameri- 
can, a combination which caused sundry pairs of feminine 
eyes to look approvingly after him, and sundry dandies in black 
velvet suits, with rose-colored neckties, buff gloves, and orange- 
flowers in their button-holes, to shrug their shoulders, and then 
envy him his inches. There were plenty of pretty faces to ad- 
mire, but the young man took little notice of them, except to 
glance, now and then, at some blonde girl, or lady in blue. Pres- 
ently he strolled out of the promenade, and stood a moment 
at the crossing, as if undecided whether to go and listen to the 
band in the Jardin Publique, or to wander along the beach 
toward Castle Hill. The quick trot of ponies' feet made him 
look up, as one of the little carriages, containing a single lady, 
came rapidly down the street. The lady was young, blonde, and 
dressed in blue. He stared a minute, then his whole face woke 
up, and waving his hat like a boy, he hurried forward to meefc 
her. 



402 LITTLE WOMEN 

' J O Laurie, is it really you? I thought you 'd never come ! " 
cried Amy, dropping the reins, and holding out both hands, to 
the great scandalization of a French mamma, who hastened her 
daughter's steps, lest she should be demoralized by beholding 
the free manners of these " mad English." 

" I was detained by the way, but I promised to spend Christ- 
mas with you, and here I am." 

" How is your grandfather ? When did you come ? Where 
are you staying ? " 

" Very well last night at the Chauvain. I called at your 
hotel, but you were all out." 

" I have so much to say, I don't know where to begin ! Get 
in, and we can talk at our ease; I was going for a drive, and 
longing for company. Flo's saving up for to-night." 

" What happens then, a ball? " 

" A Christmas party at our hotel. There are many Americans 
there, and they give it in honor of the day. You '11 go with us. 
of course? Aunt will be charmed." 

" Thank you. Where now ? " asked Laurie, leaning back and 
folding his arms, a proceeding which suited Amy, who pre- 
ferred to drive; for her parasol- whip and blue reins over the 
white ponies' backs, afforded her infinite satisfaction. 

" I 'm going to the banker's first, for letters, and then to 
Castle Hill; the view is so lovely, and I like to feed ths 
peacocks. Have you ever been there ? " 

" Often, years ago; but I don't mind having a look at it." 

" Now tell me all about yourself. The last I heard of you, 
your grandfather wrote that he expected you from Berlin." 

" Yes, I spent a month there, and then joined him in Paris, 
where he has settled for the winter. He has friends there, and 
finds plenty to amuse him; so I go and come and we get on 
capitally." 

" That 's a sociable arrangement," said Amy, missing some- 
thing in Laurie's manner, though she could n't tell what. 

" Why, you see he hates to travel, and I hate to keep alill ; so 
we each suit ourselves, and there is no trouble. I am often with 



LITTLE WOMEN 403 

him, and he enjoys my adventures, while I like to feel that 
some one is glad to see me when J get back from my wander- 
ings. Dirty old hole, is n't it? " he added, with a look of disgust, 
as they drove along the boulevard to the Place Napoleon, in the 
old city. 

" The dirt is picturesque, so I don't mind. The river and 
the hills are delicious, and these glimpses of the narrow cross- 
streets are my delight. Now we shall have to wait for that 
procession to pass ; it 's going to the Church of St. John." 

While Laurie listlessly watched the procession of priests 
under their canopies, white-veiled nuns bearing lighted tapers, 
and some brotherhood in blue, chanting as they walked, Amy 
watched him, and felt a new sort of shyness steal over her ; for 
he was changed, and she could not find the merry-faced boy she 
left in the moody-looking man beside her. He was handsomer 
than ever, and greatly improved, she thought ; but now that the 
flush of pleasure at meeting her was over, he looked tired and 
spiritless, not sick, nor exactly unhappy, but older and graver 
than a year or two of prosperous life should have made him. 
She couldn 't understand it, and did not venture to ask ques- 
tions ; so she shook her head, and touched up her ponies, as the 
procession wound away across the arches of the Paglioni bridge, 
and vanished in the church. 

" Que pensez vous? " she said, airing her French, which had 
improved in quantity, if not in quality, since she came abroad. 

" That mademoiselle has made good use of her time, and 
the result is charming," replied Laurie, bowing, with his band 
on his heart, and an admiring look. 

She blushed with pleasure, but somehow the compliment did 
not satisfy her like the blunt praises he used to give her at 
home, when he promenaded round her on festival occasions, 
and told her she was "altogether jolly," with a hearty smile 
and an approving pat on the head. She didn't like the new 
tone; for, though not blast, it sounded indifferent in spite 
of the look. 

"If that 's the way he 's going to grow up, f wish he 'd stay 



404 LITTLE WOMEN 

a boy," she thought, with a curious sense of disappointment and 
discomfort, trying meantime to seem quite easy and gay. 

At Avigdor's she found the precious home-letters, and, giving 
the reins to Laurie, read them luxuriously as they wound up 
the shady road between green hedges, where tea-roses bloomed 
as freshly as in June. 

" Beth is very poorly, mother says. I often think I ought to 
go home, but they all say ' stay ; ' so I do, for I shall never have 
another chance like this," said Amy, looking sober over one page. 

" I think you are right there ; you could do nothing at home, 
and it is a great comfort to them to know that you are well and 
happy, and enjoying so much, my dear." 

He drew a little nearer, and looked more like his old self, as 
he said that; and the fear that sometimes weighed on Amy's 
heart was lightened, for the look, the act, the brotherly " my 
dear," seemed to assure her that if any trouble did come, she 
would not be alone in a strange land. Presently she laughed, 
and showed him a small sketch of Jo in her scribbling-suit, with 
the bow rampantly erect upon her cap, and issuing from her 
mouth the words, " Genius burns ! " 

Laurie smiled, took it, put it in his vest-pocket, " to keep it 
from blowing away," and listened with interest to the lively let- 
ter Amy read him. 

" This will be a regularly merry Christmas to me, with pres- 
ents in the morning, you and letters in the afternoon, and a 
party at night," said Amy, as they alighted among the ruins of 
the old fort, and a flock of splendid peacocks came trooping 
about them, tamely waiting to be fed. While Amy stood laugh- 
ing on the bank above him as she scattered crumbs to the bril- 
liant birds, Laurie looked at her as she had looked at him, with a 
natural curiosity to see what changes time and absence had 
wrought. He found nothing to perplex or disappoint, much to 
admire and approve ; for, overlooking a few little affectations of 
speech and manner, she was as sprightly and graceful as ever, 
with the addition of that indescribable something in dress and 
bearing which we call elegance. Always mature for her age, 



LITTLE WOMEN 405 

she had gained a certain aplomb in both carriage and conversa- 
tion, which made her seem more of a woman of the world than 
she was ; but her old petulance now and then showed itself, her 
strong will still held its own, and her native frankness was un- 
spoiled by foreign polish. 

Laurie did not read all this while he watched her feed the 
peacocks, but he saw enough to satisfy and interest him, and 
carried away a pretty little picture of a bright-faced girl stand- 
ing in the sunshine, which brought out the soft hue of her dress, 
the fresh color of her cheeks, the golden gloss of her hair, and 
made her a prominent figure in the pleasant scene. 

As they came up on to the stone plateau that crowns the 
hill, Amy waved her hand as if welcoming him to her favorite 
haunt, and said, pointing here and there, 

" Do you remember the Cathedral and the Corso, the fisher- 
men dragging their nets in the bay, and the lovely road to Villa 
Franca, Schubert's Tower, just below, and, best of all, that 
speck far out to sea which they say is Corsica ? " 

" I remember ; it 's not much changed," he answered with- 
out enthusiasm. 

" What Jo would give for a sight of that famous speck ! " 
said Amy, feeling in good spirits, and anxious to see him so 
also. 

" Yes," was all he said, but he turned and strained his eyes 
to see the island which a greater usurper than even Napoleon 
now made interesting in his sight. 

" Take a good look at it for her sake, and then come and tell 
me what you have been doing with yourself all this while," said 
Amy, seating herself, ready for a good talk. 

But she did not get it; for, though he joined her, and an- 
swered all her questions freely, she could only learn that he 
had roved about the continent and been to Greece. So, after 
idling away an hour, they drove home again ; and, having paid 
his respects to Mrs. Carrol, Laurie left them, promising to re- 
turn in the evening. 

It must be recorded of Amy that she deliberately " prinked * 



406 LITTLE WOMEN 

hight. Time and absence had done its work on both the 



young people ; she had seen her old friend in a new light, not 
as " our boy," but as a handsome and agreeable man, and she 
was conscious of a very natural desire to find favor in his sight- 
Amy knew her good points, and made the most of them, with 
the taste and skill which is a fortune to a poor and pretty 
woman. 

Tarlatan and tulle were cheap at Nice, so she enveloped her- 
self in them on such occasions, and, following the sensible 
English fashion of simple dress for young girls, got up charm- 
ing little toilettes with fresh flowers, a few trinkets, and all 
manner of dainty devices, which were both inexpensive and 
effective. It must be confessed that the artist sometimes go*- 
possession of the woman, and indulged in antique coiffures, 
statuesque attitudes, and classic draperies. But, dear heart, we 
all have our little weaknesses, and find it easy to pardon such 
in the young, who satisfy our eyes with their comeliness, and 
keep our hearts merry with their artless vanities. 

" I do want him to think I look well, and tell them so at 
home," said Amy to herself, as she put on Flo's old white silk 
ball-dress, and covered it with a cloud of fresh illusion, out of 
iwhich her white shoulders and golden head emerged with a 
most artistic effect. Her hair she had the sense to let alone, 
after gathering up the thick waves and curls into a Hebe-like 
knot at the back of her head. 

" It 's not the fashion, but it 's becoming, and I can't afford 
to make a fright of myself," she used to say, when advised to 
frizzle, puff, or braid, as the latest style commanded. 

Having no ornaments fine enough for this important occasion, 
Amy looped her fleecy skirts with rosy clusters of azalea, and 
framed the white shoulders in delicate green vines. Remember- 
ing the painted boots, she surveyed her white satin slippers with 
girlish satisfaction, and chasseed down the room, admiring her 
aristocratic feet all by herself. 

" My new fan just matches my flowers, my gloves fit to 3 
charm, and the real lace on aunt's mouchoir gives an air t3 my 



LITTLE WOMEN 407 

whole dress. If I only had a classical nose and xr>uth I should 
be perfectly happy," she said, surveying herself with a critical 
eye, and a candle in each hand. 

In spite of this affliction, she looked unusually ^ay and grace- 
ful as she glided away ; she seldom ran, it d'tf not suit her 
style, she thought, for, being tall, the stately and Junoesque was 
more appropriate than the sportive or piquante. She walked 
up and down the long saloon while waiting for Laurie, and 
once arranged herself under the chandelier, which had a good 
effect upon her hair; then she thought better of it, and went 
away to the other end of the room, as if ashamed of the girlish 
desire to have the first view a propitious one. It so happened 
that she could not have done a better thing, for Laurie came in 
so quietly she did not hear him ; and, as she stood at the distant 
window, with her head half turned, and one hand gathering 
up her dress, the slender, white figure against the red curtains 
was as effective as a well-placed statue. 

" Good evening, Diana ! " said Laurie, with the look of satis- 
faction she liked to see in his eyes when they rested on her. 

" Good evening, Apollo ! " she answered, smiling back at 
him, for he, too, looked unusually deboniwire, and the thought 
of entering the ball-room on the arm of such a personable man 
caused Amy to pity the four plain Misses Davis from the bot- 
tom of her heart. 

" Here are your flowers ; I arranged them myself, remember- 
ing that you did n't like what Hannah calls a ' sot bookay/ " 
said Laurie, handing her a delicate nosegay, in a holder that 
she had long coveted as she daily passed it in Cardiglia's 
window. 

" How kind you are ! " she exclaimed gratefully, "If I 'd 
known you were coming I 'd have had something ready for you 
to-day, though not as pretty as this, I 'm afraid." 

" Thank you ; it is n't what it should be. but you have inu 
proved it," he added, as she snapped the silver bracelet on hei 
wrist. 

" Please don't" 



408 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I thought you liked that sort of thing? " 

" Not from you ; it does n't sound natural, and I like your 
old bluntness better." 

" I 'm glad of it," he answered, with a look of relief ; then 
buttoned her gloves for her, and asked if his tie was straight, 
just as he used to do when they went to parties together, at 
home. 

The company assembled in the long settle d manger, that 
evening, was such as one sees nowhere but on the Continent. 
The hospitable Americans had invited every acquaintance they 
had in Nice, and, having no prejudice against titles, secured 
a few to add lustre to their Christmas ball. 

A Russian prince condescended to sit in a corner for an hour, 
and talk with a massive lady, dressed like Hamlet's mother, in 
black velvet, with a pearl bridle under her chin. A Polish 
count, aged eighteen, devoted himself to the ladies, who pro- 
nounced him " a fascinating dear," and a German Serene Some- 
thing having come for the supper alone, roamed vaguely about, 
seeking what he might devour. Baron Rothschild's private sec- 
retary, a large-nosed Jew, in tight boots, affably beamed upon 
the world, as if his master's name crowned him with a golden 
halo; a stout Frenchman, who knew the Emperor, came to in- 
dulge his mania for dancing, and Lady de Jones, a British 
matron, adorned the scene with her little family of eight. Of 
course, there were many light-footed, and shrill- voiced Ameri- 
can girls, handsome, lifeless-looking English ditto, and a few 
plain but piquante French demoiselles ; likewise the usual set of 
travelling young gentlemen, who disported themselves gayly, 
while mammas of all nations lined the walls, and smiled upon 
them benignly when they danced with their daughters. 

Any young girl can imagine Amy's state of mind when she 
" took the stage " that night, leaning on Laurie's arm. She 
knew she looked well, she loved to dance, she felt that her foot 
was on her native heath in a ball-room, and enjoyed the delight- 
ful sense of power which comes when young girls first discover 
the new and lovely kingdom they are born to rule by virtue of 



LITTLE WOMEN 409 

beauty, youth, and womanhood. She did pity the Davis girls, 
who were awkward, plain, and destitute of escort, except a grim 
papa and three grimmer maiden aunts, and she bowed to them in 
her friendliest manner as she passed; which was good of her, 
as it permitted them to see her dress, and burn with curiosity 
to know who her distinguished-looking friend might be. With 
the first burst of the band, Amy's color rose, her eyes 'began 
to sparkle, and her feet to tap the floor impatiently; for she 
danced well, and wanted Laurie to know it : therefore the shock 
she received can better be imagined than described, when he 
said, in a perfectly tranquil tone, 

" Do you care to dance ? " 

" One usually does at a ball." 

Her amazed look and quick answer caused Laurie to repair 
his error as fast as possible. 

" I meant the first dance. May I have the honor ? " 

" I can give you one if I put off the Count. He dances 
divinely; but he will excuse me, as you are an old friend," 
said Amy, hoping that the name would have a good effect, 
and show Laurie that she was not to be trifled with. 

" Nice little boy, but rather a short Pole to support 
" ' A daughter of the gods, 

Divinely tall and most divinely fair/" 
was all the satisfaction she got, however. 

The set in which they found themselves was composed of 
English, and Amy was compelled to walk decorously through 
a cotillon, feeling all the while as if she could dance the 
Tarantula with a relish. Laurie resigned her to the " nice 
little boy," and went to do his duty to Flo, without securing 
Amy for the joys to come, which reprehensible want of fore- 
thought was properly punished, for she immediately engaged 
herself till supper, meaning to relent if he then gave any signs of 
penitence. She showed him her ball-book with demure satis- 
faction when he strolled, instead of rushing, up to claim her 
for the next, a glorious polka-redowa ; but his polite regrets 
didn't impose upon her, and when she gallopaded away with 



410 LITTLE WOMEN 

the Count, she saw Laurie sit down by her aunt with an 
actual expression of relief. 

That was unpardonable; and Amy took no more notice of 
him for a long while, except a word now and then when she 
came to her chaperon, between the dances, for a necessary 
pin or a moment's rest. Her anger had a good effect, how- 
ever, for she hid it under a smiling face, and seemed un- 
usually blithe and brilliant. Laurie's eyes followed her with 
pleasure, for she neither romped nor sauntered, but danced 
with spirit and grace, making the delightsome pastime what 
it should be. He very naturally fell to studying her from 
this new point of view; and, before the evening was half 
over, had decided that " little Amy was going to make a very 
charming woman." 

It was a lively scene, for soon the spirit of the social season 
took possession of every one, and Christmas merriment made 
all faces shine, hearts happy, and heels light. The musicians 
riddled, tooted, and banged as if they enjoyed it; everybody 
danced who could, and those who could n't admired their 
neighbors with uncommon warmth. The air was dark with 
Davises, and many Joneses gambolled like a flock of young 
giraffes. The golden secretary darted through the room like 
a meteor, with a dashing Frenchwoman, who carpeted the 
floor with her pink satin train. The Serene Teuton found 
the supper-table, and was happy, eating steadily through the 
bill of fare, and dismayed the gardens by the ravages he 
committed. But the Emperor's friend covered himself with 
glory, for he danced everything, whether he knew it or not> 
and introduced impromptu pirouettes when the figures be- 
wildered him. The boyish abandon of that stout man was 
charming to behold; for, though he "carried weight," he 
danced like an india-rubber ball. He ran, he flew, he pranced ; 
his face glowed, his bald head shone; his coat-tails waved 
wildly, his pumps actually twinkled in the air, and when the 
music stopped, he wiped the drops from his brow, and 



LITTLE WOMEN 411 

Deamed upon his fellow-men like a French Pickwick without 
glasses. 

Amy and her Pole distinguished themselves by equal en- 
thusiasm, but more graceful agility; and Laurie found him- 
self involuntarily keeping time to the rhythmic rise and fall 
of the white slippers as they flew by as indefatigably as if 
winged. When little Vladimir finally relinquished her, with 
assurances that he was " desolated to leave so early," she was 
ready to rest, and see how her recreant knight had borne his 
punishment. 

It had been successful; for, at three-and-twenty, blighted 
affections find a balm in friendly society, and young nerves 
will thrill, young blood dance, and healthy young spirits rise, 
when subjected to the enchantment of beauty, light, music, 
and motion. Laurie had a waked-up look as he rose to give 
her his seat; and when he hurried away to bring her some 
supper, she said to herself, with a satisfied smile, 

" Ah, I thought that would do him good ! " 

" You look like Balzac's ' Femme peinte par elle meme/ " 
he said, as he fanned her with one hand, and held her coffee- 
cup in the other. 

" My rouge won't come off ; " and Amy rubbed her bril- 
liant cheek, and showed him her white glove with a sober 
simplicity that made him laugh outright. 

" What do you call this stuff ? " he asked, touching a fold 
of her dress that had blown over his knee. 

" Illusion." 

" Good name for it ; it 's very pretty new thing, is n't 
it?" 

" It 's as old as the hills ; you have seen it on dozens of 
girls, and you never found out that it was pretty till now 
stupide! " 

" I never saw it on you before, which accounts for the 
mistake, you see." 

" None of that, it is forbidden ; I 'd rather take coffee than 



4 i2 LITTLE WOMEN 

compliments just now. No, don't lounge, it makes me 
nervous." 

Laurie sat bolt upright, and meekly took her empty plate, 
feeling an odd sort of pleasure in having " little Amy " order 
him about; for she had lost her shyness now, and felt an 
irresistible desire to trample on him, as girls have a delight- 
ful way of doing when lords of creation show any signs of 
subjection. 

"Where did you learn all this sort of thing?'* he asked, 
with a quizzical look. 

" As ' this sort of thing ' is rather a vague expression, 
would you kindly explain ?" returned Amy, knowing per- 
fectly well what he meant, but wickedly leaving him to de- 
scribe what is indescribable. 

"Well the general air, the style, the self-possession, the 
the illusion you know," laughed Laurie, breaking 
down, and helping himself out of his quandary with the new 
word. 

Amy was gratified, but, of course, didn't show it, and 
demurely answered, " Foreign life polishes one in spite of 
one's self ; I study as well as play ; and as for this " with 
a little gesture toward her dress "why, tulle is cheap, 
posies to be had for nothing, and I am used to making the 
most of my poor little things." 

Amy rather regretted that last sentence, fearing it wasn't 
in good taste; but Laurie liked her the better for it, and 
found himself both admiring and respecting the brave pa- 
tience that made the most of opportunity, and the cheerful 
spirit that covered poverty with flowers. Amy did not know 
why he looked at her so kindly, nor why he filled up her 
book with his own name, and devoted himself to her for the 
rest of the evening, in the most delightful manner; but the 
impulse that wrought this agreeable change was the result of 
one of the new impressions which both of them were un- 
consciously giving and receiving. 



LITTLE WOMEN 413 

CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

ON THE SHELF. 

IN France the young girls have a dull time of it till they 
are married, when " Vive la liberte " becomes their motto. 
In America, as every one knows, girls early sign the declara- 
tion of independence, and enjoy their freedom with republi- 
can zest; but the young matrons usually abdicate with the 
first heir to the throne, and go into a seclusion almost as close 
as a French nunnery, though by no means as quiet. Whether 
they like it or not, they are virtually put upon the shelf as 
soon as the wedding excitement is over, and most of them 
might exclaim, as did a very pretty woman the other day, " I 'm 
as handsome as ever, but no one takes any notice of me be- 
cause I 'm married." 

Not being a belle or even a fashionable lady, Meg did not 
experience this affliction till her babies were a year old, for 
in her little world primitive customs prevailed, and she found 
herself more admired and beloved than ever. 

As she was a womanly little woman, the maternal instinct 
was very strong, and she was entirely absorbed in her chil- 
dren, to the utter exclusion of everything and everybody else. 
Day and night she brooded over them with tireless devotion 
and anxiety, leaving John to the tender mercies of the help, 
for an Irish lady now presided over the kitchen department. 
Being a domestic man, John decidedly missed the wifely at- 
tentions he had been accustomed to receive; but, as he adored 
his babies, he cheerfully relinquished his comfort for a time, 
supposing, with masculine ignorance, that peace would soon 
be restored. But three months passed, and there was no 
return or repose; Meg looked worn and nervous, the babies 
absorbed every minute of her time, the house was neglected, 
and Kitty, the cook, who took life "aisy," kept him on short 



4 i4 LITTLE WOMEN 

commons. When he went out in the morning he was be- 
wildered by small commissions for the captive mamma; if 
he came gayly in at night, eager to embrace his family, he was 
quenched by a " Hush ! they are just asleep after worrying 
all day." If he proposed a little amusement at home, " No, 
it would disturb the babies." If he hinted at a lecture or 
concert, he was answered with a reproachful look, and a 
decided " Leave my children for pleasure, never ! " His sleep 
was broken by infant wails and visions of a phantom figure 
pacing noiselessly to and fro in the watches of the night; 
his meals were interrupted by the frequent flight of the presid- 
ing genius, who deserted him, half -helped, if a muffled chirp 
sounded from the nest above; and when he read his paper of 
an evening, Demi's colic got into the shipping-list, and Daisy's 
fall affected the price of stocks, for Mrs. Brooke was only in- 
terested in domestic news. 

The poor man was very uncomfortable, for the children had 
bereft him of his wife; home was merely a nursery, and the 
perpetual " hushing " made him feel like a brutal intruder 
whenever he entered the sacred precincts of Baby land. He 
bore it very patiently for six months, and, when no signs of 
amendment appeared, he did what other paternal exiles do, 
tried to get a little comfort elsewhere. Scott had married and 
gone to housekeeping not far off, and John fell into the way 
of running over for an hour or two of an evening, when his 
own parlor was empty, and his own wife singing lullabies that 
seemed to have no end. Mrs. Scott, was a lively, pretty girl, 
with nothing to do but be agreeable, and she performed her 
mission most successfully. The parlor was always bright and 
attractive, the chess-board ready, the piano in tune, plenty of 
gay gossip, and a nice little supper set forth in tempting style. 

John would have preferred his own fireside if it had not been 
so lonely ; but as it was, he gratefully took the next best thing, 
and enjoyed his neighbor 's society. 

Meg rather approved of the new arrangement at first, and 
found it a relief to know that John was having a good time 



LITTLE WOMEN 415 

instead of dozing in the parlor, or tramping about the house and 
waking the children. But by and by, when the teething worry 
was over, and the idols went to sleep at proper hours, leaving 
mamma time to rest, she began to miss John, and find her work 
basket dull company, when he was not sitting opposite in his 
old dressing gown, comfortably scorching his slippers on the 
fender. She would not ask him to stay at home, but felt 
injured because he did not know that she wanted him without 
being told, entirely forgetting the many evenings he had waited 
for her in vain. She was nervous and worn out with watching 
and worry, and in that unreasonable frame of mind which the 
best of mothers occasionally experience when domestic cares 
oppress them. Want of exercise robs them of cheerfulness, and 
too much devotion to that idol of American women, the teapot, 
makes them feel as if they were all nerve and no muscle. 

" Yes," she would say, looking in the glass, " I 'm getting old 
and ugly ; John does n't find me interesting any longer, so he 
leaves his faded wife and goes to see his pretty neighbor, who 
has no incumbrances. Well, the babies love me; they don't 
care if I am thin and pale, and have n't time to crimp my hair ; 
they are my comfort, and some day John will see what I 've 
gladly sacrificed for them, won't he, my precious ? " 

To which pathetic appeal Daisy would answer with a coo, or 
Demi with a crow, and Meg would put by her lamentations for 
a maternal revel, which soothed her solitude for the time being. 
But the pain increased as politics absorbed 'John, who was al- 
ways running over to discuss interesting points with Scott, 
quite unconscious that Meg missed him. Not a word did she 
say, however, till her mother found her in tears one day, and 
insisted on knowing what the matter was, for Meg's drooping 
spirits had not escaped her observation. 

" I would n't tell any one except you, mother ; but I really 
do need advice, for, if John goes on so much longer I might as 
well be widowed," replied Mrs. Brooke, drying her tears on 
Daisy's bib, with an injured air. 

" Goes on how, my dear ? " asked her mother anxiously. 



416 LITTLE WOMEN 

" He 's awa) r all day, and at night, when I want to see him, 
he is continually going over to the Scotts'. It is n't fair that I 
should have the hardest work, and never any amusement. Men 
are very selfish, even the best of them." 

" So are women ; don't blame John till you see where you 
are wrong yourself." 

" But it can't be right for him to neglect me." 

"Don't you neglect him?" 

" Why, mother, I thought you 'd take my part ! " 

" So I do, as far as sympathizing goes ; but I think the fault 
is yours, Meg." 

" I don't see how." 

" Let me show you. Did John ever neglect you, as you call 
it, while you made it a point to give him your society of an 
evening, his only leisure time ? " 

" No ; but I can't do it now, with two babies to tend." 

" I think you could, dear ; and I think you ought. May I 
speak quite freely, and will you remember that it 's mother who 
blames as well as mother who sympathizes ? " 

" Indeed I will ! Speak to me as if I were little Meg again. 
I often feel as if I needed teaching more than ever since these 
babies look to me for everything." 

Meg drew her low chair beside her mother's, and, with a little 
interruption in either lap, the two women rocked and talked 
lovingly together, feeling that the tie of motherhood made them 
more one than ever. 

"You have only made the mistake that most young wives 
make, forgotten your duty to your husband in your love 
for your children. A very natural and forgiveable mistake, 
Meg, but one that had better be remedied before you take to 
different ways; for children should draw you nearer than ever, 
not separate you, as if they were all yours, and John had nothing 
to do but support them. I 've seen it for some weeks, but have 
not spoken, feeling sure it would come right in time." 

" I 'm afraid it won't. If I ask him to stay, he '11 think I 'm 
jealous ; and I would n't insult him by such an idea. He does n't 



LITTLE WOMEN 417 

see that I want him, and I don't know how to tell him without 
words." 

" Make it so pleasant he won't want to go away. My dear, 
he 's longing for his little home ; but it is n't home without you, 
and you are always in the nursery." 

"Oughtn't I to be there?" 

" Not all the time ; too much confinement makes you nervous, 
and then you are unfitted for everything. Besides, you owe 
something to John as well as to the babies; don't neglect hus- 
band for children, don't shut him out of the nursery, but teach 
him how to help in it. His place is there as well as yours, and 
the children need him ; let him feel that he has his part to do, 
and he will do it gladly and faithfully, and it will be better for 
you all." 

" You really think so, mother ? " 

" I know it, Meg, for I 've tried it ; and I seldom give advice 
unless I 've proved its practicability. When you and Jo were 
little, I went on just as you are, feeling as if I did n't do my 
duty unless I devoted myself wholly to you. Poor father took 
to his books, after I had refused all offers of help, and left me 
to try my experiment alone. I struggled along as well as I 
could, but Jo was too much for me. I nearly spoilt her by in- 
dulgence. You were poorly, and I worried about you till I 
fell sick myself. Then father came to the rescue, quietly man- 
aged everything, and made himself so helpful that I saw my 
mistake, and never have been able to get on without him since. 
That is the secret of our home happiness : he does not let busi- 
ness wean him from the little cares and duties that affect us all, 
and I try not to let domestic worries destroy my interest in his 
pursuits. We each do our part alone in many things, but at 
home we work together, always." 

" It is so, mother ; and my great wish is to be to my husband 
and children what you have been to yours. Show me how; 
I '11 do anything you say." 

" You always were my docile daughter. Well, dear, if I were 
you, I 'd let John have more to do with management of Demi, 



418 LITTLE WOMEN 

for the boy needs training, and it 's none too soon to begin. 
Then I 'd do what I have often proposed, let Hannah come and 
help you ; she is a capital nurse, and you may trust the precious 
babies to her while you do more housework. You need the 
exercise, Hannah would enjoy the rest, and John would find 
his wife again. Get out more ; keep cheerful as well as busy, 
for you are the sunshine-maker of the family, and if you get 
dismal there is no fair weather. Then I 'd try to take an in- 
terest in whatever John likes, talk with him, let him read to 
you, exchange ideas, and help each other in that way. Don't 
shut yourself up in a bandbox because you are a woman, but 
understand what is going on, and educate yourself to take your 
part in the world's work, for it all affects you and yours." 

" John is so sensible, I 'm afraid he will think I 'm stupid 
if I ask questions about politics and things." 

" I don't believe he would ; love covers a multitude of sins, 
and of whom could you ask more freely than of him ? Try it, 
and see if he does n't find your society far more agreeable than 
Mrs. Scott's suppers." 

" I will. Poor John ! I 'm afraid I have neglected him sadly, 
but I thought I was right, and he never said anything." 

" He tried not to be selfish, but he has felt rather forlorn, I 
fancy. This is just the time, Meg, when young married people 
are apt to grow apart, and the very time when they ought to 
be most together ; for the first tenderness soon wears off, unless 
care is taken to preserve it; and no time is so beautiful and 
precious to parents as the first years of the little lives given them 
to train. Don't let John be a stranger to the babies, for they 
will do more to keep him safe and happy in this world of trial 
and temptation than anything else, and through them you will 
learn to know and love one another as you should. Now, dear, 
good-by ; think over mother's preachment, act upon it if it seems 
good, and God bless you all ! " 

Meg did think it over, found it good, and acted upon it> 
though the first attempt was not made exactly as she planned 
to have it. Of course the children tyrannized over her, and 



LITTLE WOMEN 419 

ruled the house as soon as they found out that kicking and 
squalling brought them whatever they wanted. Mamma was 
an abject slave to their caprices, but papa was not so easily sub- 
jugated, and occasionally afflicted his tender spouse by an at- 
tempt at paternal discipline with his obstreperous son. For 
Demi inherited a trifle of his sire 's firmness of character, 
we won't call it obstinacy, and when he made up his little 
mind to have or to do anything, all the king's horses and all 
the king's men could not change that pertinacious little mind. 
Mamma thought the dear too young to be taught to conquer 
his prejudices, but papa believed that it never was toe soon to 
learn obedience ; so Master Demi early discovered that when he 
undertook to " wrastle " with " parpar," he always got the worst 
of it; yet, like the Englishman, Baby respected the man who 
conquered him, and loved the father whose grave " No, no," 
was more impressive than all mamma's love-pats. 

A few days after the talk with her mother, Meg resolved to 
try a social evening with John; so she ordered a nice supper, 
set the parlor in order, dressed herself prettily, and put the 
children to bed early, that nothing should interfere with her 
experiment. But, unfortunately, Demi's most unconquerable 
prejudice was against going to bed, and that night he decided to 
go on a rampage ; so poor Meg sung and rocked, told stories and 
tried every sleep-provoking wile she could devise, but all in vain, 
the big eyes would n't shut ; and long after Daisy had gone to 
byelow, like the chubby little bunch of good-nature she was, 
naughty Demi lay staring at the light, with the most discourag- 
ingly wide-awake expression of countenance. 

" Will Demi lie still like a good boy, while mamma runs 
down and gives poor papa his tea ? " asked Meg, as the hall, 
door softly closed, and the well-known step went tip- toeing into 
the dining-room. 

" Me has tea ! " said Demi, preparing to join in the revel. 

" No ; but I '11 save you some little cakies for breakfast, if 
you *U go bye-by like Daisy. Will you, lovey? " 



420 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Iss ! " and Demi shut his eyes tight, as if to catch sleep and 
hurry the desired day. 

Taking advantage of the propitious moment, Meg slipped 
away, and ran down to greet her husband with a smiling face, 
and the little blue bow in her hair which was his especial ad- 
miration. He saw it at once, and said, with pleased surprise, 
" Why, little mother, how gay we are to-night. Do you ex- 
pect company ? " 

" Only you, dear." 

" Is it a birthday, anniversary, or anything ? " 

" No ; I 'm tired of being a dowdy, so I dressed up as a 
change. You always make yourself nice for table, no matter 
how tired you are ; so why should n't I when I have the time ? " 

" I do it out of respect to you, my dear," said the old- 
fashioned John. 

" Ditto, ditto, Mr. Brooke," laughed Meg, looking young and 
pretty again, as she nodded to him over the teapot. 

" Well, it 's altogether delightful, and like old times. This 
tastes right. I drink your health, dear." And John sipped his 
tea with an air of reposeful rapture, which was of very short 
duration, however ; for, as he put down his cup, the door-handle 
rattled mysteriously, and a little voice was heard, say im- 
patiently, 

" Opy doy ; me 's tummin ! " 

" It 's that naughty boy. I told him to go to sleep alone, and 
here he is, downstairs, getting his death a-cold pattering over 
that canvas," said Meg, answering the call. 

" Mornin' now," announced Demi, in a joyful tone, as he en- 
tered, with his long night-gown gracefully festooned over his 
arm, and every curl bobbing gayly as he pranced about the 
table, eyeing the "cakies " with loving glances. 

" No, it is n't morning yet. Ybu must go to bed, and not 
trouble poor mamma; then you can have the little cake with 
sugar on it." 

" Me loves parpar," said the artful one, preparing to climb 
the paternal knee, and revel in forbidden joys. But John shook 
his head, and said to Meg, 



LITTLE WOMEN 431 

"If you told him to stay up there, and go to sleep alone, 
make him do it, or he will never learn to mind you." 

" Yes, of course. Come, Demi ; " and Meg led her son away, 
feeling a strong desire to spank the little marplot who hopped 
beside her, laboring under the delusion that the bribe was to 
be administered as soon as they reached the nursery. 

Nor was he disappointed; for that short-sighted woman 
actually gave him a lump of sugar, tucked him into his bed, 
and forbade any more promenades till morning. 

" Iss ! " said Demi the perjured, blissfully sucking his sugar, 
and regarding his first attempt as eminently successful. 

Meg returned to her place, and supper was progressing pleas- 
antly, when the little ghost walked again, and exposed the ma- 
ternal delinquencies by boldly demanding, 

" More sudar, marmar." 

" Now this won't do," said John, hardening his heart against 
the engaging little sinner. " We shall never know any peace 
till that child learns to go to bed properly. You have made a 
slave of yourself long enough; give him one lesson, and then 
there will be an end of it. Put him in his bed and leave him, 
Meg." 

" He won't stay there ; he never does, unless I sit by him." 

" I '11 manage him. Demi go upstairs, and get into your bed, 
as mamma bids you." 

" S'ant ! " replied the young rebel, helping himself to the 
coveted " cakie," and beginning to eat the same with calm 
audacity. 

" You must never say that to papa; I shall carry you if you 
don't go yourself." 

" Go 'way ; me don't love parpar ; " and Demi retired to his 
mother's skirts for protection. 

But even that refuge proved unavailing, for he was delivered 
over to the enemy, with a " Be gentle with him, John," which 
struck the culprit with dismay ; for when mamma deserted him, 
then the judgment-day was at hand. Bereft of his cake, de- 
frauded of his frolic, and borne away by a strong hand to that 



422 LITTLE WOMEN 

detested bed, poor Demi could not restrain his wrath, but openly 
defied papa, and kicked and screamed lustily all the way upstairs. 
The minute he was put into bed on one side, he rolled out on 
the other, and made for the door, only to be ignominiously 
caught up by the tail of his little toga, and put back again, which 
lively performance was kept up till the young man's strength 
gave out, when he devoted himself to roaring at the top of his 
voice. The vocal exercise usually conquered Meg; but John 
sat as unmoved as the post which is popularly believed to be 
deaf. No coaxing, no sugar, no lullaby, no story, even the 
light was put out, and only the red glow of the fire enlivened 
the " big dark " which Demi regarded with curiosity rather than 
fear. This new order of things disgusted him, and he howled 
dismally for " marmar," as his angry passions subsided, and 
recollections of his tender bondwoman returned to the captive 
autocrat. The plaintive wail which succeeded the passionate 
roar went to Meg's heart, and she ran up to say beseechingly, 

" Let me stay with him ; he '11 be good, now, John." 

" No, my dear, I 've told him he must go to sleep, as you bid 
him; and he must, if I stay here all night." 

" But he '11 cry himself sick," pleaded Meg, reproaching 
herself for deserting her boy. 

" No, he won't, he 's so tired he will soon drop off, and then 
the matter is settled ; for he will understand that he has got to 
mind. Don't interfere; I'll manage him." 

" He 's my child, and I can't have his spirit broken by harsh- 
ness." 

" He 's my child, and I won't have his temper spoilt by in- 
dulgence. Go down, my dear, and leave the boy to me." 

When John spoke in that masterful tone, Meg always obeyed, 
and never regretted her docility. 

"Please let me kiss him once, John?" 

" Certainly. Demi, say ' good-night ' to mamma, and let her 
go and rest, for she is very tired with taking care of you all 
day." 

Meg always insisted upon it that the kiss won the victory,; for 



LITTLE WOMEN 423 

after it was given, Demi sobbed more quietly, and lay quite still 
at the bottom of the bed, whither he had wriggled in his anguish 
of mind. 

" Poor little man, he 's worn out with sleep and crying. I '11 
cover him up, and then go and set Meg's heart at rest," thought 
John, creeping to the bedside, hoping to find his rebellious heir 
asleep. 

But he was n't ; for the moment his father peeped at him, 
Demi's eyes opened, his little chin began to quiver, and he 
put up his arms, saying, with a penitent hiccough, " Me 's dood, 
now." 

Sitting on the stairs, outside, Meg wondered at the long 
silence which followed the uproar ; and, after imagining all sorts 
of impossible accidents, she slipped into the room, to set her 
Sear s <it rest. Demi lay fast asleep ; not in his usual spread-eagle 
attitude, but in a subdued bunch, cuddled close in the circle of 
his father's arm and holding his father's finger, as if he felt 
that justice was tempered with mercy, and had gone to sleep a 
sadder and a wiser baby. So held, John had waited with 
womanly patience till the little hand relaxed its hold ; and, while 
waiting, had fallen asleep, more tired by that tussle with his 
son than with his whole day's work. 

As Meg stood watching the two faces on the pillow, she 
smiled to herself, and then slipped away again, saying, in a 
satisfied tone, 

" I never need fear that John will be too harsh with my 
babies : he does know how to manage them, and will be a great 
help, for Demi is getting too much for me." 

When John came down at last, expecting to find a pensive or 
reproachful wife, he was agreeably surprised to find Meg 
placidly trimming a bonnet, and to be greeted with the request 
to read something about the election, if he was not too tired. 
John saw in a minute that a revolution of some kind was going 
on, but wisely asked ho questions, knowing that Meg was such 
a transparent little person, she could n't keep a secret to save 
her life, and therefore the ^.lew would soon appear. He read 



424 LITTLE WOMEN 

a long debate with the most amiable readiness and then ex- 
plained in his most lucid manner, while Meg tried to look deeply 
interested, to ask intelligent questions, and keep her thoughts 
from wandering from the state of the nation to the state of her 
bonnet. In her secret soul, however, she decided that politics 
were as bad as mathematics, and that the mission of politicians 
seemed to be calling each other names; but she kept these 
feminine ideas to herself, and when John paused, shook her 
head, and said with what she thought diplomatic ambiguity, 

" Well, I really don't see what we are coming to/' 

John laughed, and watched her for a minute, as she poised 
a pretty little preparation of lace and flowers on her hand, and 
regarded it with the genuine interest which his harangue had 
failed to waken. 

" She is trying to like politics for my sake, so I '11 try and like 
millinery for hers, that 's only fair," thought John the Just, 
adding aloud, 

" That 's very pretty ; is it what you call a breakfast cap ? '' 

" My dear man, it 's a bonnet ! My very best go-to-concert- 
and-theatre bonnet." 

" I beg your pardon ; it was so small, I naturally mistook it 
for one of the fly-away things you sometimes wear. How do 
you keep it on ? " 

" These bits of lace are fastened under the chin with a 
rosebud, so ; " and Meg illustrated by putting on the bonnet, 
and regarding him with an air of calm satisfaction that was 
irresistible. 

" It 's a love of a bonnet, but I prefer the face inside, for it 
looks young and happy again ; " and John kissed the smiling 
face, to the great detriment of the rosebud under the chin. 

" I 'm glad you like it, for I want you to take me to one of 
the new concerts some night ; I really need some music to put 
me in tune. Will you, please ? " 

"Of course I will, with all my heart, or anywhere else you 
like. You have been shut up so long, it will do you no end of 



LITTLE WOME1ST 425 

good and I shall enjoy it, of all things. What put it into 
your head, little mother ? " 

" Well, I had a talk with Marmee the other day, and told her 
how nervous and cross and out of sorts I felt, and she said I 
needed change and less care: so Hannah is to help me with 
the children, and I 'm to see to things about the house more, 
and now and then have a little fun, just to keep me from getting 
to be a fidgety, broken-down old woman before my time. It 's 
only an experiment, John, and I want to try it for your sake 
as much as for mine, because I Ve neglected you shamefully 
lately, and I 'm going to make home what it used to be, if I can. 
You don't object, I hope?" 

Never mind what John said, or what a very narrow escape 
the little bonnet had from utter ruin; all that we have, any 
business to know is that John did not appear to object, judging 
from the changes which gradually took place in the house and 
its inmates. It was not all Paradise by any means, but every 
one was better for the division of labor system; the children 
throve under the paternal rule, for accurate, steadfast John 
brought order and obedience into Babydom, while Meg recov- 
ered her spirits and composed her nerves by plenty of wholesome 
exercise, a little pleasure, and much confidential conversation 
with her sensible husband. Home grew home-like again, and 
John had no wish to leave it, unless he took Meg with him. 
The Scotts came to the Brookes' now, and every one found the 
little house a cheerful place, full of happiness, content, and 
family love. Even gay Sallie Moffatt liked to go there. " It is 
always so quiet and pleasant here; it does me good, Meg," she 
used to say, looking about her with wistful eyes, as if trying 
to discover the charm, that she might use it in her great house, 
full of splendid loneliness; for there were no riotous, sunny- 
faced babies there, and Ned lived in a world of his own, where 
there was no place for her. 

This household happiness did not come all at once, but John 
and Meg had found the key to it, and each year of married 
life taught them how to use it unlocking the treasuries of real 



426 LITTLE WOMEN 

home-love and mutual helpfulness, which the poorest may 
possess, and the richest cannot buy. This is the sort of shelf 
on which young wives and mothers may consent to be laid, 
safe from the restless fret and fever of the world, finding 
loyal lovers in the little sons and daughters who cling to them, 
undaunted by sorrow, poverty, or age; walking side by side, 
through fair and stormy weather, with a faithful friend, who is, 
in the true sense of the good old Saxon word, the " house- 
band," and learning, as Meg learned, that a woman's happiest 
kingdom is home, her highest honor the art of ruling it not as 
a queen, but as a wise wife and mother. 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

LAZY LAURENCE. 

LAURIE went to Nice intending to stay a week, and remained 
a month. He was tired of wandering about alone, and Amy's 
familiar presence seemed to give a home-like charm to the 
foreign scenes in which she bore a part. He rather missed the 
"petting" he used to receive, and enjoyed a taste of it again; 
for no attentions, however flattering, from strangers, were half 
so pleasant as the sisterly adoration of the girls at home. Amy 
never would pet him like the others, but she was very glad to 
see him now, and quite clung to him, feeling that he was the 
representative of the dear family for whom she longed more 
than she would confess. They naturally took comfort in each 
other's society, and were much together, riding, walking, 
dancing, or dawdling, for, at Nice, no one can be very indus- 
trious during the gay season. But, while apparently amusing 
themselves in the most careless fashion, they were half -con- 
sciously making discoveries and forming opinions about each 
other. Amy rose daily in the estimation of her friend, but he 
sunk in hers, and each felt the truth before a word was spoken, 
Amy tried to please, and succeeded, for she was grateful for 



LITTLE WOMEN 427 

the many pleasures he gave her, and repaid him with the little 
services to which womanly women know how to lend an inde- 
scribable charm. Laurie made no effort of any kind, but just 
let himself drift along as comfortably as possible, trying to 
forget, and feeling that all women owed him a kind word 
because one had been cold to him. It cost him no effort to be 
generous, and he would have given Amy all the trinkets in 
Nice if she would have taken them; but, at the same time, he 
felt that he could not change the opinion she was forming of 
him, and he rather dreaded the keen blue eyes that seemed to 
watch him with such half-sorrowful, half-scornful surprise. 

" All the rest have gone to Monaco for the day ; I preferred 
to stay at home and write letters. They are done now, and I 
am going to Valrosa to sketch ; will you come ? " said Amy, as 
she joined Laurie one lovely day when he lounged in as usual, 
about noon. 

" Well, yes ; but is n't it rather warm for such a long walk ? " 
he answered slowly, for the shaded salon looked inviting, after 
the glare without. 

" I 'm going to have the little carriage, and Baptiste can 
drive, so you '11 have nothing to do but hold your umbrella and 
keep your gloves nice," returned Amy, with a sarcastic glance 
at the immaculate kids, which were a weak point with Laurie. 

" Then I '11 go with pleasure ; " and he put out his hand for 
her sketch-book. But she tucked it under her arm with a 
sharp 

" Don't trouble yourself ; it 's no exertion to me, but you 
don't look equal to it." 

Laurie lifted his eyebrows, and followed at a leisurely pace 
as she ran downstairs ; but when they got into the carriage he 
took the reins himself, and left little Baptiste nothing to do 
but fold his arms and fall asleep on his perch. 

The two never quarrelled, Amy was too well-bred, and 
just now Laurie was too lazy ; so, in a minute he peeped under 
her hat-brim with an inquiring air ; she answered with a smile, 
and they went on together in the most amicable manner. 



428 LITTLE WOMEN 

It was a lovely drive, along winding roads rich in the 
picturesque scenes that delight beauty-loving eyes. Here an 
ancient monastery, whence the solemn chanting of the monks 
came down to them. There a bare-legged shepherd, in wooden 
shoes, pointed hat, and rough jacket over one shoulder, sat 
piping on a stone, while his goats skipped among the rocks or 
lay at his feet. Meek, mouse-colored donkeys, laden with 
panniers of freshly cut grass, passed by, with a pretty girl in a 
capaline sitting between the green piles, or an old woman 
spinning with a distaff as she went. Brown, soft-eyed children 
ran out from the quaint stone hovels to offer nosegays, or 
bunches of oranges still on the bough. Gnarled olive-trees 
covered the hills with their dusky foliage, fruit hung golden 
in the orchard, and great scarlet anemones fringed the roadside ; 
while beyond green slopes and craggy heights, the Maritime 
Alps rose sharp and white against the blue Italian sky. 

Valrosa well deserved its name, for, in that climate of 
perpetual summer, roses blossomed everywhere. They over- 
hung the archway, thrust themselves between the bars of the 
great gate with a sweet welcome to passers-by, and lined the 
avenue, winding through lemon-trees and feathery palms up to 
the villa on the hill. Every shadowy nook, where seats invited 
one to stop and rest, was a mass of bloom; every cool grotto 
had its marble nymph smiling from a veil of flowers, and every 
fountain reflected crimson, white, or pale pink roses, leaning 
down to smile at their own beauty. Roses covered the walk 
of the house, draped the cornices, climbed the pillars, and ran 
riot over the balustrade of the wide terrace, whence one looked 
down on the sunny Mediterranean, and the white-walled city 
on its shore. 

" This is a regular honeymoon Paradise, is n't it ? Did you 
ever see such roses ? " asked Amy, pausing on the terrace to 
enjoy the view, and a luxurious whiff of perfume that came 
wandering by. 

" No, nor felt such thorns/' returned Laurie, with his thumb 



LITTLE WOMEN 429 

in his mouth, after a vain attempt to capture a solitary scarlet 
flower that grew just beyond his reach. 

" Try lower down, and pick those, that have no thorns," said 
Amy, gathering three of the tiny cream-colored ones that starred 
the wall behind her. She put them in his button-hole, as a" 
peace-offering, and he stood a minute looking down at them 
with a curious expression, for in the Italian part of his nature 
there was a touch of superstition, and he was just then in that 
state of half-sweet, half-bitter melancholy, when imaginative 
young men find significance in trifles, and food for romance 
everywhere. He had thought of Jo in reaching after the thorny 
red rose, for vivid flowers became her, and she had often worn 
ones like that from the greenhouse at home. The pale roses 
Amy gave him were the sort that the Italians lay in dead hands, 
never in bridal wreaths, and, for a moment, he wondered if 
the omen was for Jo or for himself; but the next instant his 
American common-sense got the better of sentimentality, and 
he laughed a heartier laugh than Amy had heard since he came. 

" It 's good advice ; you 'd better take it and save your 
fingers," she said, thinking her speech amused him. 

" Thank you, I will," he answered in jest, and a few months 
later he did it in earnest. 

"Laurie, when are you going to your grandfather?" she 
asked presently, as she settled herself on a rustic seat. 

" Very soon." 

" You have said that a dozen times within the last three 
weeks." 

" I dare say ; short answers save trouble." 

" He expects you, and you really ought to go." 

" Hospitable creature ! I know it." 

" Then why don't you do it ? " 

" Natural depravity, I suppose." 

" Natural indolence, you mean. It 's really dreadful ! " and 
Amy looked severe. 

" Not so bad as it seems, for I should only plague him if I 
went, so I might as well stay, and plague you a little longer, 



430 LITTLE WOMEN 

you can bear it better; in fact, I think it agrees with you 
excellently ; " and Laurie composed himself for a lounge on the 
6road ledge of the balustrade. 

Amy shook her head, and opened her sketch-book with an 
air or resignation; but she had made up her mind to lecture 
"that boy," and in a minute she began again. 

" What are you doing just now? " 

" Watching lizards." 

" No, no ; I mean what do you intend and wish to do ? " 

" Smoke a cigarette, if you '11 allow me." 

" How provoking you are ! I don't approve of cigars, and 
I will only allow it on condition that you let me put you into 
my sketch; I need a figure." 

" With all the pleasure in life. How will you have me, 
full-length or three-quarters, on my head or my heels ? I should 
respectfully suggest a recumbent posture, then put yourself in 
also, and call it ' Dolce far niente.' " 

" Stay as you are, and go to sleep if you like. / intend to 
work hard," said Amy, in her most energetic tone. 

" What delightful enthusiasm ! " and he leaned against a tall 
urn with an air of entire satisfaction. 

" What would Jo say if she saw you now ? " asked Amy 
impatiently, hoping to stir him up by the mention of her still 
more energetic sister's name. 

" As usual, ' Go away, Teddy, I 'm busy ! ' ' He laughed as 
he spoke, but the laugh was not natural, and a shade passed over 
his face, for the utterance of the familiar name touched the 
wound that was not healed yet. Both tone and shadow struck 
Amy, for she had seen and heard them before, and now she 
looked up in time to catch a new expression on Laurie's face, 
a hard, bitter look, full of pain, dissatisfaction, and regret. 
It was gone before she could study it, and the listless expression 
back again. She watched him for a moment with artistic 
pleasure, thinking how like an Italian he looked, as he lay 
basking in the sun with uncovered head, and eyes full of 



LITTLE WOMEN 431 

southern dreaminess ; for he seemed to have forgotten her, and 
fallen into a reverie. 

" You look like the effigy of a young knight asleep on his 
tomb," she said, carefully tracing the well-cut profile defined 
against the dark stone. 

*' Wish I was ! " 

" That 's a foolish wish, unless you have spoilt your life. You 
are so changed, I sometimes think " there Amy stopped, with 
a half-timid, half-wistful look, more significant than her 
unfinished speech. 

Laurie saw and understood the affectionate anxiety which 
she hesitated to express, and looking straight into her eyes, 
said, just as he used to say it to her mother, 

" It 's all right, ma'am." 

That satisfied her and set at rest the doubts that had begun 
to worry her lately. It also touched her, and she showed that 
it did, by the cordial tone in which she said, 

" I 'm glad of that ! I did n't think you 'd been a very bad 
boy, but I fancied you might have wasted money at that wicked 
Baden-Baden, lost your heart to some charming Frenchwoman 
with a husband, or got into some of the scrapes that young 
men seem to consider a necessary part of a foreign tour. Don't 
stay out there in the sun ; come and lie on the grass here, and 
' let us be friendly/ as Jo used to say when we got in the sofa- 
corner and told secrets." 

Laurie obediently threw himself down on the turf, and began 
to amuse himself by sticking daisies into the ribbons of Amy's 
hat, that lay there. 

" I 'm all ready for the secrets ; " and he glanced up with a 
decided expression of interest in his eyes. 

" I 've none to tell ; you may begin." 

" Have n't one to bless myself with. I thought perhaps you 'd 
had some news from home." 

" You have heard all that has come lately. Don't you hear 
often? I fancied Jo would send you volumes." 

" She 's very busy ; I 'm roving about so, it 's impossible to 



432 LITTLE WOMEN 

be regular, you know. When do you begin your great work 
of art, Raphaella?" he asked, changing the subject abruptly 
after another pause, in which he had been wondering if Amy 
knew his secret, and wanted to talk about it. 

" Never," she answered, with a despondent but decided air. 
" Rome took all the vanity out of me ; for after seeing the 
wonders there, I felt too insignificant to live, and gave up all 
my foolish hopes in despair." 

" Why should you, with so much energy and talent? " 

" That 's just why, because talent is n't genius, and no 
amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing. 
I won't be a common-place dauber, so I don't intend to try 
any more." 

" And what are you going to do with yourself now, if I may 
ask?" 

" Polish up my other talents, and be an ornament to society, 
if I get the chance." 

It was a characteristic speech, and sounded daring; but 
audacity becomes young people, and Amy's ambition had a 
good foundation. Laurie smiled, but he liked the spirit with 
which she took up a new purpose when a long-cherished one 
died, and spent no time lamenting. 

" Good ! and here is where Fred Vaughn comes in, I fancy." 

Amy preserved a discreet silence, but there was a conscious 
look in her downcast face, that made Laurie sit up and say 
gravely, 

" Now I 'm going to play brother, and ask questions. 
May I?" 

" I don't promise to answer." 

" Your face will, if your tongue won't. You are n't woman 
of the world enough yet to hide your feelings, my dear. I heard 
rumors about Fred and you last year, and it 's my private 
opinion that, if he had not been called home so suddenly and 
detained so long, something would have come of it hey ? " 

" That 's not for me to say," was Amy's prim reply ; but her 
lips would smile, and there was a traitorous sparkle of the eye/ 



LITTLE WOMEN 433 

which betrayed that she knew her power and enjoyed the 
knowledge, 

" You are not engaged, I hope ? " and Laurie looked very 
elder-brotherly and grave all of a sudden. 

" No." 

" But you will be, if he comes back and goes properly down 
upon his knees, won't you ? " 

" Very likely." 

" Then you are fond of old Fred ? " 

" I could be, if I tried." 

" But you don't intend to try till the proper moment ? Bless 
my soul, what unearthly prudence ! He 's a good fellow, Amy, 
but not the man I fancied you 'd like." 

" He is rich, a gentleman, and has delightful manners," began 
Amy, trying to be quite cool and dignified, but feeling a little 
ashamed of herself, in spite of the sincerity of her intentions. 

" I understand ; queens of society can't get on without money, 
so you mean to make a good match, and start in that way? 
Quite right and proper, as the world goes, but it sounds odd 
from the lips of one of your mother's girls." 

" True, nevertheless." 

A short speech, but the quiet decision with which it was 
uttered contrasted curiously with the young speaker. Laurie 
felt this instinctively, and laid himself down again, with a sense 
of disappointment which he could not explain. His look and 
silence, as well as a certain inward self -disapproval, ruffled 
Amy, and made her resolve to deliver her lecture without delay. 

" I wish you 'd do me the favor to rouse yourself a little," 
she said sharply. 

" Do it for me, there 's a dear girl." 

" I could, if I tried ; " and she looked as if she would like 
doing it in the most summary style. 

"Try, then; I give you leave," returned Laurie, who enjoyed 
having some one to tease, after his long abstinence from his 
favorite pastime. 

" You 'd be angry in five minutes," 



434 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I 'm never angry with you. It takes two (lints to make a 
fire : you are as cool and soft as snow." 

" You don't know what I can do ; snow produces a glow 
and a tingle, if applied rightly. Your indifference is half 
affectation, and a good stirring up would prove it." 

" Stir away ; it won't hurt me and it may amuse you, as the 
big man said when his little wife beat him. Regard me in the 
light of a husband or a carpet, and beat till you are tired, if 
that sort of exercise agrees with you." 

Being decidedly nettled herself, and longing to see him shake 
off the apathy that so altered him, Amy sharpened both tongue 
and pencil, and began : 

" Flo and I have got a new name for you ; it 's ' Lazy 
Laurence.' How do you like it ? " 

She thought it would annoy him ; but he only folded his arms 
under his head, with an imperturbable " That 's not bad. Thank 
you, ladies." 

" Do you want to know what I honestly think of you ? " 

" Pining to be told." 

" Well, I despise you." 

If she had even said " I hate you," in a petulant or coquettish 
tone, he would have laughed, and rather liked it ; but the grave, 
almost sad, accent of her voice made him open his eyes, and 
ask quickly, 

"Why, if you please?" 

" Because, with every chance for being good, useful, and 
happy, you are faulty, lazy, and miserable." 

" Strong language, mademoiselle." 

" If you like it, I '11 go on." 

" Pray do ; it 's quite interesting." 

" I thought you 'd find it so ; selfish people always like to 
talk about themselves." 

" Am / selfish ? " The question slipped out involuntarily 
and in a tone of surprise, for the one virtue on which he prided 
himself was generosity. 

" Yes, very selfish," continued Amy, in a calm, cool voice, 



LITTLE WOMEN 435 

twice as effective, just then, as an angry one. " I '11 show you 
how, for I Ve studied you while we have been frolicking, and 
I 'm not at all satisfied with you. Here you have been abroad 
nearly six months, and done nothing but waste time and money 
and disappoint your friends." 

" Is n't a fellow to have any pleasure after a four-years 
grind?" 

" You don't look as if you 'd had much ; at any rate, you are 
none the better for it, as far as I can see. I said, when we first 
met, that you had improved. Now I take it all back, for I don't 
think you half so nice as when I left you at home. You have 
grown abominably lazy; you like gossip, and waste time on 
frivolous things; you are contented to be petted and admired 
by silly people, instead of being loved and respected by wise 
ones. With money, talent, position, health, and beauty, ah, 
you like that, Old Vanity ! but it 's the truth, so I can't help 
saying it with all these splendid things to use and enjoy, 
you can find nothing to do but dawdle; and, instead of being 
the man you might and ought to be, you are only " There 
she stopped, with a look that had both pain and pity in it. 

" Saint Laurence on a gridiron," added Laurie, blandly 
finishing the sentence. But the lecture began to take effect, 
for there was a wide-awake sparkle in his eyes now, and a half- 
angry, half-injured expression replaced the former indifference. 

" I supposed you 'd take it so. You men tell us we are angels, 
and say we can make you what we will; but the instant we 
honestly try to do you good, you laugh at us, and won't listen, 
which proves how much your flattery is worth." Amy spoke 
bitterly, and turned her back on the exasperating martyr at 
her feet. 

In a minute a hand came down over the page, so that she 
could not draw, and Laurie's voice said, with a droll imitation 
of a penitent child, 

" I will be good, oh, I will be good! " 

But Amy did not laugh, for she was in earnest ; and, tapping 
on the outspread hand with her pencil, said soberly, 



436 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Are n't you ashamed of a hand like that ? It 's as soft 
white as a woman's, and looks as if it never did anything but 
wear Jouvin's best gloves, and pick flowers for ladies. You are 
not a dandy, thank Heaven ! so I 'm glad to see there are no 
diamonds or big seal-rings on it, only the little old one Jo gave 
you so long ago. Dear soul, I wish she was here to help me ! " 

" So do I ! " 

The hand vanished as suddenly as it came, and there was 
energy enough in the echo of her wish to suit even Amy. She 
glanced down at him with a new thought in her mind; but he 
was lying with his hat half over his face, as if for shade, and 
his mustache hid his mouth. She only saw his chest rise and 
fall, with a long breath that might have been a sigh, and the 
hand that wore the ring nestled down into the grass, as if 
to hide something too precious or too tender to be spoken of. 
All in a minute various hints and trifles assumed shape and 
significance in Amy's mind, and told her what her sister never 
had confided to her. She remembered that Laurie never spoke 
voluntarily of Jo ; she recalled the shadow on his face just now, 
the change in his character, and the wearing of the little old 
ring, which was no ornament to a handsome hand. Girls are 
quick to read such signs and feel their eloquence. Amy had 
fancied that perhaps a love trouble was at the bottom of the 
alteration, and now she was sure of it. Her keen eyes filled, 
and, when she spoke again, it was in a voice that could be 
beautifully soft and kind when she chose to make it so. 

" I know I have no right to talk so to you, Laurie ; and if you 
were n't the sweetest-tempered fellow in the world, you 'd be 
very angry with me. But we are all so fond and proud of 
you, I could n't bear to think they should be disappointed in you 
at home as I have been, though, perhaps, they would understand 
the change better than I do." 

" I think they would," came from under the hat, in a grim 
tone, quite as touching as a broken one. 

" They ought to have told me, and not let me go blundering 
and scolding, when I should have been more kind and patient 





In a minute a hand came down over the page, 
so that she could not draw. Page 435. 



LITTLE WOMEN 437 

than ever. I never did like that Miss Randal, and now I hate 
her ! " said artful Amy, wishing to be sure of her facts this time. 

" Hang Miss Randal ! " and Laurie knocked the hat off his 
face with a look that left no doubt of his sentiments toward 
that young lady. 

" I beg pardon ; I thought " and there she paused 
diplomatically. 

" No, you did n't ; you knew perfectly well I never cared for 
any one but Jo." Laurie said that in his old, impetuous tone, 
and turned his face away as he spoke. 

" I did think so ; but as they never said anything about it, and 
you came away, I. supposed I was mistaken. And Jo wouldn't 
be kind to you? Why, I was sure she loved you dearly." 

" She was kind, but not in the right way ; and it 's lucky for 
her she did n't love me, if I 'm the good-for-nothing fellow you 
think me. It 's her fault, though, and you may tell her so." 

The hard, bitter look came back again as he said that, and it 
troubled Amy, for she did not know what balm to apply. 

" I was wrong, I did n't know. I 'm very sorry I was so cross, 
but I can't help wishing you 'd bear it better, Teddy, dear." 

" Don't, that 's her name for me ! " and Laurie put up his 
hand with a quick gesture to stop the words spoken in Jo's half- 
kind, half -reproachful tone. " Wait till you 've tried it your- 
self," he added, in a low voice, as he pulled up the grass by 
the handful. 

" I 'd take it manfully, and be respected if I could n't be 
loved," said Amy, with the decision of one who knew nothing 
about it. 

Now, Laurie flattered himself that he had borne it remarkably 
well, making no moan, asking no sympathy, and taking his 
trouble away to live it down alone. Amy's lecture put the 
matter in a new light, and for the first time it did look weak 
and selfish to lose heart at the first failure, and shut himself up 
in moody indifference. He felt as if suddenly shaken out of a 
pensive dream, and found it impossible to go to sleep again. 
Presently he sat up, and asked slowly, 



438 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Do you think Jo would despise me as you do ? " 

" Yes, if she saw you now. She hates lazy people. Why 
don't you do something splendid, and make her love you ? " 

" I did my best, but it was no use." 

" Graduating well, you mean ? That was no more than you 
ought to have done, for your grandfather's sake. It would 
have been shameful to fail after spending so much time and 
money, when every one knew you could do well." 

" I did fail, say what you will, for Jo would n't love me," 
began Laurie, leaning his head on his hand in a despondent 
attitude. 

" No, you did n't, and you '11 say so in the end, for it did 
you good, and proved that you could do something if you tried. 
If you 'd only set about another task of some sort, you 'd soon 
be your hearty, happy self again, and forget your trouble." 

" That 's impossible." 

" Try it and see. You need n't shrug your shoulders, and 
think, ' Much she knows about such things.' I don't pretend to 
be wise, but I am observing, and I see a great deal more than 
you 'd imagine. I 'm interested in other people's experiences 
and inconsistencies; and, though I can't explain, I remember 
and use them for my own benefit. Love Jo all your days, if you 
choose, but don't let it spoil you, for it 's wicked to throw away 
so many good gifts because you can't have the one you want. 
There, I won't lecture any more, for I know you '11 wake up 
and be a man in spite of that hardhearted girl." 

Neither spoke for several minutes. Laurie sat turning the 
little ring on his finger, and Amy put the last touches to the 
hasty sketch she had been working at while she talked. 
Presently she put it on his knee, merely saying, 

" How do you like that? " 

He looked and then he smiled, as he could not well help 
doing, for it was capitally done, the long, lazy figure on the 
grass, with listless face, half-shut eyes, and one hand holding a 
cigar, from which came the little wreath of smoke that encircled 
the dreamer's head. 



LITTLE WOMEN 439 

" How well you draw ! " he said, with genuine surprise and 
pleasure at her skill, adding, with a half-laugh, 

" Yes, that 's me." 

" As you are : this is as you were ; " and Amy laid another 
sketch beside the one he held. 

It was not nearly so well done, but there was a life and spirit 
in it which atoned for many faults, and it recalled the past so 
vividly that a sudden change swept over the young man's face 
as he looked. Only a rough sketch of Laurie taming a horse ; 
hat and coat were off, and every line of the active figure, resolute 
face, and commanding attitude, was full of energy and meaning. 
The handsome brute, just subdued, stood arching his neck 
under the tightly drawn rein, with one foot impatiently pawing 
the ground, and ears pricked up as if listening for the voice 
that had mastered him. In the ruffled mane, the rider's breezy 
hair and erect attitude, there was a suggestion of suddenly 
arrested motion, of strength, courage, and youthful buoyancy, 
that contrasted sharply with the supine grace of the " Dolce 
far niente " sketch. Laurie said nothing ; but, as his eye went 
from one to the other, Amy saw him flush up and fold his 
lips together as if he read and accepted the little lesson she 
had given him. That satisfied her< and, without waiting for 
him to speak, she said, in her sprightly way, 

" Don't you remember the day you played Rarey with Puck, 
and we all looked on ? Meg and Beth were frightened, but Jo 
clapped and pranced, and I sat on the fence and drew you. 
I found that sketch in my portfolio the other day, touched it 
up, and kept it to show you." 

" Much obliged. You 've improved immensely since then, 
and I congratulate you. May I venture to suggest in ' a honey- 
moon Paradise ' that five o'clock is the dinner-hour at your 
hotel?" 

Laurie rose as he spoke, returned the pictures with a smile 
and a bow, and looked at his watch, as if to remind her that 
even moral lectures should have an end. He tried to resume 
his former easy, indifferent air, but it was an affectation 



440 LITTLE WOMEN 

for the rousing had been more efficacious than he would confess. 
Amy felt the shade of coldness in his manner, and said to 
herself, 

" Now I Ve offended him. Well, if it does him good, I J m 
glad; if it makes him hate me, I 'm sorry; but it's true, and 
I can't take back a word of it." 

They laughed and chatted all the way home; and little 
Baptiste, up behind, thought that monsieur and mademoiselle 
were in charming spirits. But both felt ill at ease ; the friendly 
frankness was disturbed, the sunshine had a shadow over it, 
and, despite their apparent gayety, there was a secret discontent 
in the heart of each. 

" Shall we see you this evening, mon freref " asked Amy, as 
they parted at her aunt's door. 

" Unfortunately I have an engagement. Au revoir, made- 
moiselle" and Laurie bent as if to kiss her hand, in the foreign 
fashion, which became him better than many men. Something 
in his face made Amy say quickly and warmly, 

" No ; be yourself with me, Laurie, and part in the good old 
way. I 'd rather have a hearty English hand-shake than all the 
sentimental salutations in France." 

" Good-by, dear," and with these words, uttered in the tone 
she liked, Laurie left her, after a hand-shake almost painful in 
its heartiness. 

Next morning, instead of the usual call, Amy received a 
note which made her smile at the beginning and sigh at the 
end: 

" MY DEAR MENTOR, 

" Please make my adieux to your aunt, and exult within 
yourself, for ' Lazy Laurence ' has gone to his grandpa, 
like the best of boys. A pleasant winter to you, and may the 
gods grant you a blissful honeymoon at Valrosa ! I think Fred 
would be benefited by a rouser. Tell him so, with my 
congratulations. 

"Yours gratefully, TELEMACHUS." 



LITTLE WOMEN 441 

"Good boy! I'm glad he's gone," said Amy, with an 
approving smile; the next minute her face fell as she glanced 
about the empty room, adding, with an involuntary sigh, 

" Yes, I am glad, but how I shall miss him ! " 



CHAPTER XL. 

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW. 

WHEN the first bitterness was over, the family accepted the 
inevitable, and tried to bear it cheerfully, helping one another 
by the increased affection which comes to bind households 
tenderly together in times of trouble. They put away their 
grief, and each did his or her part toward making that last 
year a happy one. 

The pleasantest room in the house was set apart for Beth, 
and in it was gathered everything that she most loved, 
flowers, pictures, her piano, the little work-table, and the 
beloved pussies. Father's best books found their way there, 
mother's easy-chair, Jo's desk, Amy's finest sketches ; and every 
day Meg brought her babies on a loving pilgrimage, to make 
sunshine for Aunty Beth. John quietly set apart a little sum, 
that he might enjoy the pleasure of keeping the invalid supplied 
with the fruit she loved and longed for; old Hannah never 
wearied of concocting dainty dishes to tempt a capricious 
appetite, dropping tears as she worked; and from across the 
sea came little gifts and cheerful letters, seeming to bring 
breaths of warmth and fragrance from lands that know no 
winter. 

Here, cherished like a household saint in its shrine, sat Beth, 
tranquil and busy as ever ; for nothing could change the sweet, 
unselfish nature, and even while preparing to leave life, she tried 
to make it happier for those who should remain behind. The 
feeble fingers were never idle, and one of her pleasures was 
to make little things for the school-children daily passing to 



442 LITTLE WOMEN 

and fro, to drop a pair of mittens from her window for a 
pair of purple hands, a needle-book for some small mother of 
many dolls, pen-wipers for young penmen toiling through 
forests of pot-hooks, scrap-books for picture-loving eyes, and 
all manner of pleasant devices, till the reluctant climbers up 
the ladder of learning found their way strewn with flowers, 
as it were, and came to regard the gentle giver as a sort of 
fairy godmother, who sat above there, and showered down gifts 
miraculously suited to their tastes and needs. If Beth had 
wanted any reward, she found it in the bright little faces always 
turned up to her window, with nods and smiles, and the droll 
little letters which came to her, full of blots and gratitude. 

The first few months were very happy ones, and Beth often 
used to look round, and say " How beautiful this is ! " as they 
all sat together in her sunny room, the babies kicking and 
crowing on the floor, mother and sisters working near, and 
father reading, in his pleasant voice, from the wise old books 
which seemed rich in good and comfortable words, as applicable 
now as when written centuries ago ; a little chapel, where a 
paternal priest taught his flock the hard lessons all must learn, 
trying to show them that hope can comfort love, and faith make 
resignation possible. Simple sermons, that went straight to 
the souls of those who listened; for the father's heart was in 
the minister's religion, and the frequent falter in the voice gave 
a double eloquence to the words he spoke or read. 

It was well for all that this peaceful time was given them as 
preparation for the sad hours to come; for, by and by, Beth 
said the needle was " so heavy," and put it down forever ; 
talking wearied her, faces troubled her, pain claimed her for 
its own, and her tranquil spirit was sorrowfully perturbed by 
the ills that vexed her feeble flesh. Ah me! such heavy days, 
such long, long nights, such aching hearts and imploring 
prayers, when those who loved her best were forced to see the 
thin hands stretched out to them beseechingly, to hear the bitter 
cry, " Help me, help me ! " and to feel that there was no help. 
A sad eclipse of the serene soul, a sharp struggle of the young 



LITTLE WOMEN 443 

life with death; but both were mercifully brief, and then, the 
natural rebellion over, the old peace returned more beautiful 
than ever. With the wreck of her frail body, Beth's soul grew 
strong ; and, though she said little, those about her felt that she 
was ready, saw that the first pilgrim called was likewise the 
fittest, and waited with her on the shore, trying to see the 
Shining Ones coming to receive her when she crossed the river. 

Jo never left her for an hour since Beth had said, " I feel 
stronger when you are here." She slept on a couch in the room, 
waking often to renew the fire, to feed, lift, or wait upon the 
patient creature who seldom asked for anything, and " tried 
not to be a trouble." All day she haunted the room, jealous 
of any other nurse, and prouder of being chosen then than of 
any honor her life ever brought her. Precious and helpful 
hours for Jo, for now her heart received the teaching that it 
needed; lessons in patience were so sweetly taught her that 
she could not fail to learn them; charity for all, the lovely 
spirit that can forgive and truly forget unkindness, the loyalty 
to duty that makes the hardest easy, and the sincere faith that 
fears nothing, but trusts undoubtingly. 

Often, when she woke, Jo found Beth reading in her well- 
worn little book, heard her singing softly, to beguile the sleepless 
night, or saw her lean her face upon her hands, while slow tears 
dropped through the transparent fingers ; and Jo would lie 
watching her, with thoughts too deep for tears, feeling that 
Beth, in her simple, unselfish way, was trying to wean herself 
from the dear old life, and fit herself for the life to come, by 
sacred words of comfort, quiet prayers, and the music she 
loved so well. 

Seeing this did more for Jo than the wisest sermons, the 
saintliest hymns, the most fervent prayers that any voice could 
utter; for, with eyes made clear by many tears, and a heart 
softened by the tenderest sorrow, she recognized the beauty of 
her sister's life, uneventful, unambitious, yet full of the 
genuine virtues which " smell sweet, and blossom in the dust," 



444 LITTLE WOMEN 

the self-forgetfulness that makes the humblest on earth remem- 
bered soonest in heaven, the true success which is possible to all. 

One night, when Beth looked among the books upon her table, 
to find something to make her forget the moral weariness that 
was almost as hard to bear as pain, as she turned the leaves of 
her old favorite Pilgrim's Progress, she found a little paper, 
scribbled over in Jo's hand. The name caught her eye, and the 
blurred look of the lines made her sure that tears had fallen on it. 

" Poor Jo ! she 's fast asleep, so I won't wake her to ask 
leave ; she shows me all her things, and I don't think she '11 mind 
if I look at this," thought Beth, with a glance at her sister, who 
lay on the rug, with the tongs beside her, ready to wake up the 
minute the log fell apart. 

"MY BETH 
" Sitting patient in the shadow 

Till the blessed light shall come, 
A serene and saintly presence 
Sanctifies our troubled home. 
Earthly joys and hopes and sorrows 

Break like ripples on the strand 
Of the deep and solemn river 
Where her willing feet now stand. 

" O my sister, passing from me, 

Out of human care and strife, 
Leave me, as a gift, those virtues 

Which have beautified your life. 
Dear, bequeath me that great patience 

Which has power to sustain 
A cheerful, uncomplaining spirit 

In its prison-house of pain. 

" Give me, for I need it sorely, 

Of that courage, wise and sweet, 
Which has made the path of duty 

Green beneath your willing feet. 
Give me that unselfish nature, 

That with charity divine 



LITTLE WOMEN 445 

Can pardon wrong for love's dear sake 
Meek heart, forgive me mine ! 

" Thus our parting daily loseth 

Something of its bitter pain, 
And while learning this hard lesson, 

My great loss becomes my gain. 
For the touch of grief will render 

My wild nature more serene, 
Give to life new aspirations, 

A new trust in the unseen. 

" Henceforth, safe across the river, 

I shall see forevermore 
A beloved, household spirit 

Waiting for me on the shore. 
Hope and faith, born of my sorrow, 

Guardian angels shall become, 
And the sister gone before me 

By their hands shall lead me home." 

Blurred and blotted, faulty and feeble, as the lines were, they 
brought a look of inexpressible comfort to Beth's face, for her 
one regret had been that she had done so little ; and this seemed 
to assure her that her life had not been useless, that her death 
would not bring the despair she feared. As she sat with the 
paper folded between her hands, the charred log fell asunder. 
Jo started up, revived the blaze, and crept to the bedside, hoping 
Beth slept. 

" Not asleep, but so happy, dear. See, I found this and read 
it ; I knew you would n't care. Have I been all that to you, Jo ? " 
she asked, with wistful, humble earnestness. 

" O Beth, so much, so much ! " and Jo's head went down upon 
the pillow, beside her sister's. 

" Then I don't feel as if I 'd wasted my life. I 'm not so 
good as you make me, but I have tried to do right; and now, 
when it 's too late to begin even to do better, it 's such a comfort 
to know that some one loves me so much, and feels as if I 'd 
helped them." 



446 LITTLE WOMEN 

" More than any one in the world, Beth. I used to think I 
could n't let you go ; but I 'm learning to feel that I don't lose 
you ; that you '11 be more to me than ever, and death can't part 
us, though it seems to." 

" I know it cannot, and I don't fear it any longer, for I 'm 
sure I shall be your Beth still, to love and help you more than 
ever. You must take my place, Jo, and be everything to father 
and mother when I 'm gone. They will turn to you, don't fail 
them ; and if it 's hard to work alone, remember that I don't 
forget you, and that you '11 be happier in doing that than writing 
splendid books or seeing all the world; for love is the only 
thing that we can carry with us when we go, and it makes the 
end so easy," 

" I '11 try, Beth ; " and then and there Jo renounced her old 
ambition, pledged herself to a new and better one, acknowledg- 
ing the poverty of other desires, and feeling the blessed solace 
of a belief in the immortality of love. 

So the spring days came and went, the sky grew clearer, the 
earth greener, the flowers were up fair and early, and the birds 
came back in time to say good-by to Beth, who, like a tired but 
trustful child, clung to the hands that had led her all her life, 
as father and mother guided her tenderly through the Valley 
of the Shadow, and gave her up to God. 

Seldom, except in books, do the dying utter memorable words, 
see visions, or depart with beatified countenances ; and those 
who have sped many parting souls know that to most the end 
comes as naturally and simply as sleep. As Beth had hoped, 
the " tide went out easily ; " and in the dark hour before the 
dawn, on the bosom where she had drawn her first breath, she 
quietly drew her last, with no farewell but one loving look, one 
little sigh. 

With tears and prayers and tender hands, mother and sisters 
made her ready for the long sleep that pain would never mar 
again, seeing with grateful eyes the beautiful serenity that soon 
replaced the pathetic patience that had wrung their hearts so 



LITTLE WOMEN 447 

long, and feeling, with reverent joy, that to their darling death 
was a benignant angel, not a phantom full of dread. 

When morning came, for the first time in many months the 
fire was out, Jo's place was empty, and the room was very still. 
But a bird sang blithely on a budding bough, close by, the 
snow-drops blossomed freshly at the window, and the spring 
sunshine streamed in like a benediction over the placid face 
upon the pillow, a face so" full of painless peace that those 
who loved it best smiled through their tears, and thanked God 
that Beth was well at last. 



CHAPTER XLI. 

LEARNING TO FORGET. 

AMY'S lecture did Laurie good, though, of course, he did not 
own it till long afterward ; men seldom do, for when women are 
the advisers, the lords of creation don't take the advice till 
they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended 
to do; then they act upon it, and, if it succeeds, they give the 
weaker vessel half the credit of it; if it fails, they generously 
give her the whole. Laurie went back to his grandfather, and 
was so dutifully devoted for several weeks that the old gentleman 
declared the climate of Nice had improved him wonderfully, 
and he had better try it again. There was nothing the young 
gentleman would have liked better, but elephants could not 
have dragged him back after the scolding he had received ; pride 
forbid, and whenever the longing grew very strong, he fortified 
his resolution by repeating the words that had made the deepest 
impression, " I despise you." "Go and do something splendid 
that will make her love you." 

Laurie turned the matter over in his mind so often that he 
soon brought himself to confess that he had been selfish and 
lazy; but then when a man has a great sorrow, he should be 
indulged in all sorts of vagaries till he has lived it down. He 



448 LITTLE WOMEN 

felt that his blighted affections were quite dead now; and, 
though he should never cease to be a faithful mourner, then, 
was no occasion to wear his weeds ostentatiously. Jo would n't 
love him, but he might make her respect and admire him by 
doing something which should prove that a girl's " No " had 
not spoilt his life. He had .always meant to do something, and 
Amy's advice was quite unnecessary. He had only been waiting 
till the aforesaid blighted affections were decently interred; 
that being done, he felt that he was ready to " hide his stricken 
heart, and still toil on." 

As Goethe, when he had a joy or a grief, put it into a song, 
so Laurie resolved to embalm his love-sorrow in music, and 
compose a Requiem which should harrow up Jo's soul and melt 
the heart of every hearer. Therefore the next time the old 
gentleman found him getting restless and moody, and ordered 
him off, he went to Vienna, where he had musical friends, and 
fell to work with the firm determination to distinguish himself. 
But, whether the sorrow was too vast to be embodied in music, 
or music too ethereal to uplift a mortal woe, he soon discovered 
that the Requiem was beyond him, just at present. It was 
evident that his mind was not in working order yet, and his 
ideas needed clarifying; for often in the middle of a plaintive 
strain, he would find himself humming a dancing tune that 
vividly recalled the Christmas ball at Nice, especially the stout 
Frenchman, and put an effectual stop to tragic composition for 
the time being. 

Then he tried an Opera, for nothing seemed impossible in 
the beginning ; but here, again, unforeseen difficulties beset him. 
He wanted Jo for his heroine, and called upon his memory 
to supply him with tender recollections and romantic visions of 
his love. But memory turned traitor; and, as if possessed by 
the perverse spirit of the girl, would only recall Jo's oddities, 
faults, and freaks, would only show her in the most unsenti- 
mental aspects, beating mats with her head tied up in a 
bandanna, barricading herself with the sofa-pillow, or throwing 
cold water over his passion a la Gummidge, and an irresistible 



LITTLE WOMEN 449 

laugh spoilt the pensive picture he was endeavoring to paint. 
Jo would n't be put into the Opera at any price, and he had to 
give her up with a " Bless that girl, what a torment she is ! " 
and to clutch his hair, as became a distracted composer. 

When he looked about him for another and a less intractable 
damsel to immortalize in melody, memory produced one with 
the most obliging readiness. This phantom wore many faces, 
but it always had golden hair, was enveloped in a diaphanous 
cloud, and floated airily before his mind's eye in a pleasing 
chaos of roses, peacocks, white ponies, and blue ribbons. He 
did not give the complacent wraith any name, but he took her 
for his heroine, and grew quite fond of her, as well he might ; 
for he gifted her with every gift and grace under the sun, and 
escorted her, unscathed, through trials which would have 
annihilated any mortal woman. 

Thanks to this inspiration, he got on swimmingly for a time, 
but gradually the work lost its charm, and he forgot to compose, 
while he sat musing, pen in hand, or roamed about the gay city 
to get new ideas and refresh his mind, which seemed to be in 
a somewhat unsettled state that winter. He did not do much, 
but he thought a great deal and was conscious of a change 
of some sort going on in spite of himself. " It 's genius sim- 
mering, perhaps. I '11 let it simmer, and see what comes of it," 
he said, with a secret suspicion, all the while, that it was n't 
genius, but something far more common. Whatever it was, it 
simmered to some purpose, for he grew more and more discon- 
tented with his desultory life, began to long for some real and 
earnest work to go at, soul and body, and finally came to the 
wise conclusion that every one who loved music was not a 
composer. Returning from one of Mozart's grand operas, 
splendidly performed at the Royal Theatre, he looked over his 
own, played a few of the best parts, sat staring up at the busts 
of Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Bach, who stared benignly 
back again; then suddenly he tore up his music-sheets, one by 
one, and, as the last fluttered out of his hand, he said soberly 
to himself, 



450 LITTLE WOMEN 

" She is right ! Talent is n't genius, and you can't make it so. 
That music has taken the vanity out of me as Rome took it out 
of her, and I won't be a humbug any longer. Now what 
shall I do?" 

That seemed a hard question to answer, and Laurie began to 
wish he had to work for his daily bread. Now, if ever, occurred 
an eligible opportunity for "going to the devil," as he once 
forcibly expressed it, for he had plenty of money and nothing 
to do, and Satan is proverbially fond of providing employment 
for full and idle hands. The poor fellow had temptations 
enough from without and from within, but he withstood them 
pretty well ; for, much as he valued liberty, he valued good faith 
and confidence more, so his promise to his grandfather, and his 
desire to be able to look honestly into the eyes of the women 
who loved him, and say " All 's well," kept him safe and steady. 

Very likely some Mrs. Grundy will observe, " I don't believe 
it ; boys will be boys, young men must sow their wild oats, and 
women must not expect miracles." I dare say you don't, Mrs. 
Grundy, but it 's true nevertheless. Women work a good many 
miracles, and I have a persuasion that they may perform even 
that of raising the standard of manhood by refusing to echo 
such sayings. Let the boys be boys, the longer the better, and 
let the young men sow their wild oats if they must; but mothers, 
sisters, and friends may help to make the crop a small one, 
and keep many tares from spoiling the harvest, by believing, 
and showing that they believe, in the possibility of loyalty to 
the virtues which make men manliest in good women's eyes. 
If it is a feminine delusion, leave us to enjoy it while we may, 
for without it half the beauty and the romance of life is lost, 
and sorrowful forebodings would embitter all our hopes of the 
brave, tender-hearted little lads, who still love their mothers 
better than themselves, and are not ashamed to own it. 

Laurie thought that the task of forgetting his love for Jo 
would absorb all his powers for years ; but, to his great surprise, 
he discovered it grew easier every day. He refused to believe 
it at first, got angry with himself, and could n't understand it; 



LITTLE WOMEN 451 

but these hearts of ours are curious and contrary things, and 
time and nature work their will in spite of us. Laurie's heart 
would n't ache ; the wound persisted in healing with a rapidity 
that astonished him, and, instead of trying to forget, he found 
himself trying to remember. He had not foreseen this turn of 
affairs, and was not prepared for it. He was disgusted with 
himself, surprised at his own fickleness, and full of a queer 
mixture of disappointment and relief that he could recover 
from such a tremendous blow so soon. He carefully stirred 
up the embers of his lost love, but they refused to burst into 
a blaze : there was only a comfortable glow that warmed and 
did him good without putting him into a fever, and he was 
reluctantly obliged to confess that the boyish passion was slowly 
subsiding into a more tranquil sentiment, very tender, a little 
sad and resentful still, but that was sure to pass away in time, 
leaving a brotherly affection which would last unbroken to 
the end. 

As the words " brotherly " passed through his mind in one 
of these reveries, he smiled, and glanced up at the picture of 
Mozart that was before him : 

" Well, he was a great man ; and when he could n't have one 
sister he took the other, and was happy.''" 

Laurie did not utter the words, but he thought them; and 
the next instant kissed the little old ring, saying to himself, 

" No, I won't ! I have n't forgotten, I never can. I '11 try 
again, and if that fails, why, then " 

Leaving his sentence unfinished, he seized pen and paper 
and wrote to Jo, telling her that he could not settle to anything 
while there was the least hope of her changing her mind. 
Could n't she, would n't she, and let him come home and be 
happy? While waiting for an answer he did nothing, but he 
did it energetically, for he was in a fever of impatience. It came 
at last, and settled his mind effectually on one point, for Jo 
decidedly couldn't and wouldn't. She was wrapped up in 
Beth, and never wished to hear the word " love " again. Then 
she begged him to be happy with somebody else, but always to 



452 LITTLE WOMEN 

keep a little corner of his heart for his loving sister Jo. In a 
postscript she desired him not to tell Amy that Beth was worse ; 
she was coming home in the spring, and there was no need of 
saddening the remainder of her stay. That would be time 
enough, please God, but Laurie must write to her often, and not 
let her feel lonely, homesick, or anxious. 

" So I will, at once. Poor little girl ; it will be a sad going 
home for her, I 'm afraid ; " and Laurie opened his desk, as 
if writing to Amy had been the proper conclusion of the 
sentence left unfinished some weeks before. 

But he did not write the letter that day ; for, as he rummaged 
out his best paper, he came across something which changed 
his purpose. Tumbling about in one part of the desk, among 
bills, passports, and business documents of various kinds were 
several of Jo's letters, and in another compartment were three 
notes from Amy, carefully tied up with one of her blue ribbons, 
and sweetly suggestive of the little dead roses put away inside. 
With a half-repentant, half-amused expression, Laurie gathered 
up all Jo's letters, smoothed, folded, and put them neatly into a 
small drawer of the desk, stood a minute turning the ring 
thoughtfully on his finger, then slowly drew it off, laid it with 
the letters, locked the drawer, and went out to hear High Mass 
at Saint Stefan's, feeling as if there had been a funeral; and, 
though not overwhelmed with affliction, this seemed a more 
proper way to spend the rest of the day than in writing letters 
to charming young ladies. 

The letter went very soon, however, and was promptly 
answered, for Amy was homesick, and confessed it in the 
most delightfully confiding manner. The correspondence 
flourished famously, and letters flew to and fro, with unfailing 
regularity, all through the early spring. Laurie sold his busts, 
made allumettes of his opera, and went back to Paris, hoping 
somebody would arrive before long. He wanted desperately to 
go to Nice, but would not till he was asked; and Amy would 
not ask him, for just then she was having little experiences of 



LITTLE WOMEN 453 

her own, which made her rather wish to avoid the quizzical eyes 
of " our boy." 

Fred Vaughn had returned, and put the question to which 
she had once decided to answer, " Yes, thank you ; " but now 
she said, " No, thank you," kindly but steadily ; for, when 
the time came, her courage failed her, and she found that 
something more than money and position was needed to satisfy 
the new longing that filled her heart so full of tender hopes 
and fears. The words, " Fred is a good fellow, but not at all 
the man I fancied you would ever like," and Laurie's face when 
he uttered them, kept returning to her as pertinaciously as her 
own did when she said in look, if not in words, " I shall marry 
for money." It troubled her to remember that now, she wished 
she could take it back, it sounded so unwomanly. She did n't 
want Laurie to think her a heartless, worldly creature; she 
did n't care to be a queen of society now half so much as she 
did to be a lovable woman ; she was so glad he did n't hate 
her for the dreadful things she said, but took them so beauti- 
fully, and was kinder than ever. His letters were such a 
comfort, for the home letters were very irregular, and were 
not half so satisfactory as his when they did come. It was 
not only a pleasure, but a duty to answer them, for the poor 
fellow was forlorn, and needed petting, since Jo persisted in 
being stony-hearted. She ought to have made an effort, and 
tried to love him ; it could n't be very hard, many people would 
be proud and glad to have such a dear boy care for them ; but 
Jo never would act like other girls, so there was nothing to do 
but be very kind, and treat him like a brother. 

If all brothers were treated as well as Laurie was at this 
period, they would be a much happier race of beings than they 
are. Amy never lectured now; she asked his opinion on all 
subjects ; she was interested in everything he did, made charming 
little presents for him, and sent him two letters a week, full 
of lively gossip, sisterly confidences, and captivating sketches 
of the lovely scenes about her. As few brothers are compli- 
mented by having their letters carried about in their sisters' 



454 LITTLE WOMEN 

pockets, read and reread diligently, cried ewer when short, kissed 
when long, and treasured carefully, we will not hint that Amy 
did any of these fond and foolish things. But she certainly 
did grow a little pale and pensive that spring, lost much of 
her relish for society, and went out sketching alone a good deal. 
She never had much to show when she came home, but was 
studying nature, I dare say, while she sat for hours, with her 
hands folded, on the terrace at Valrosa, or absently sketched 
any fancy that occurred to her, a stalwart knight carved 
on a tomb, a young man asleep in the grass, with his hat over 
his eyes, or a curly-haired girl in gorgeous array, promenading 
down a ball-room on the arm of a tall gentleman, both faces 
being left a blur according to the last fashion in art, which was 
safe, but not altogether satisfactory. 

Her aunt thought that she regretted her answer to Fred ; and, 
rinding denials useless and explanations impossible, Amy left 
her to think what she liked, taking care that Laurie should 
know that Fred had gone to Egypt. That was all, but he 
understood it, and looked relieved, as he said to himself, with 
i venerable air, 

" I was sure she would think better of it. Poor fellow ! 
I 've been through it all, and I can sympathize." 

With that he heaved a great sigh, and then, as if he had 
discharged his duty to the past, put his feet up on the sofa, 
and enjoyed Amy's letter luxuriously. 

While these changes were going on abroad, trouble had come 
at home.; but the letter telling that Beth was failing never reachd 
Amy, and when the next found her, the grass was green above 
her sister. The sad news met her at Vevay, for the heat had 
driven them from Nice in May, and they had travelled slowly 
to Switzerland, by way of Genoa and the Italian lakes. She 
bore it very well, and quietly submitted to the family decree 
that she should not shorten her visit, for, since it was too late 
to say good-by to Beth, she had better stay, and let absence 
soften her sorrow. But her heart was very heavy; she longed 



LITTLE WOMEN 455 

to be at home, and every day looked wistfully across the lake, 
waiting for Laurie to come and comfort her. 

He did come very soon; for the same mail brought letters 
to them both, but he was in Germany, and it took some days 
to reach him. The moment he read it, he packed his knapsack, 
bade adieu to his fellow-pedestrians, and was off to keep his 
promise, with a heart full of joy and sorrow, hope and suspense. 

He knew Vevay well; and as soon as the boat touched the 
little quay, he hurried along the shore to La Tour, where the 
Carrols were living en pension. The gar^on was in despair 
tnat the whole family had gone to take a promenade on the 
lake; but no, the blond mademoiselle might be in the chateau 
garden. If monsieur would give himself the pain of sitting 
down, a flash of time should present her. But monsieur could 
not wait even a " flash of time/ and, in the middle of the speech, 
departed to find mademoiselle himself. 

A pleasant old garden on the borders of the lovely lake, 
with chestnuts rustling overhead, ivy climbing everywhere, and 
the black shadow of the tower falling far across the sunny 
water. At one corner of the wide, low wall was a seat, and 
here Amy often came to read or work, or console herself with 
the beauty all about her. She was sitting here that day, leaning 
her head on her hands, with a homesick heart and heavy eyes, 
thinking of Beth, and wondering why Laurie did not come. 
She did not hear him cross the court-yard beyond, nor see him 
pause in the archway that led from the subterranean path into 
the garden. He stood a minute, looking at her with new eyes, 
seeing what no one had ever seen before, the tender side of 
Amy's character. Everything about her mutely suggested love 
and sorrow, the blotted letters in her lap, the black ribbon 
that tied up her hair, the womanly pain and patience in her 
face; even the little ebony cross at her throat seemed pathetic 
to Laurie, for he had given it to her, and she wore it as her 
only ornament. If he had any doubts about the reception she 
would give him, they were set at rest the minute she looked 



456 LITTLE WOMEN 

up and saw him; for, dropping everything, she ran to him, 
exclaiming, in a tone of unmistakable love and longing, 

" O Laurie, Laurie, I knew you 'd come to me ! " 

I think everything was said and settled then; for, as they 
stood together quite silent for a moment, with the dark head 
bent down protectingly over the light one, Amy felt that no one 
could comfort and sustain her so well as Laurie, and Laurie 
decided that Amy was the only woman in the world who could 
fill Jo's place, and make him happy. He did not tell her so; 
but she was not disappointed, for both felt the truth, were 
satisfied, and gladly left the rest to silence. 

In a minute Amy went back to her place ; and, while she dried 
her tears, Laurie gathered up the scattered papers, finding in 
the sight of sundry well-worn letters and suggestive sketches 
good omens for the future. As he sat down beside her, Amy 
felt shy again, and turned rosy red at the recollection of her 
impulsive greeting. 

" I could n't help it ; I felt so lonely and sad, and was so 
very glad to see you. It was such a surprise to look up and 
find you, just as I was beginning to fear you would n't come," 
she said, trying in vain to speak quite naturally. 

" I came the minute I heard. I wish I could say something 
to comfort you for the loss of dear little Beth ; but I can only 
feel, and " He could not get any further, for he, too, turned 
bashful all of a sudden, and did not quite know what to say. 
He longed to lay Amy's head down on his shoulder, and tell 
her to have a good cry, but he did not dare ; so took her hand 
instead, and gave it a sympathetic squeeze that was better than 
words. 

" You need n't say anything ; this comforts me," she said 
softly. " Beth is well and happy, and I must n't wish her back ; 
but I dread the going home, much as I long to see them all. 
We won't talk about it now, for it makes me cry, and I want 
to enjoy you while you stay. You need n't go right back, 
need you ? " 

" Not if you want me, dear." 



LITTLE WOMEN 457 

" I do, so much. Aunt and Flo are very kind ; but you 
seem like one of the family, and it would be so comfortable 
to have you for a little while." 

Amy spoke and looked so like a homesick child, whose heart 
was full, that Laurie forgot his bashfulness all at once, and 
gave her just what she wanted, the petting she was used to 
and the cheerful conversation she needed. 

" Poor little soul, you look as if you 'd grieved yourself 
half -sick ! I 'm going to take care of you, so don't cry any 
more, but come and walk about with me ; the wind is too chilly 
for you to sit still," he said, in the half -caressing, half-com- 
manding way that Amy liked, as he tied on her hat, drew her 
arm through his, and began to pace up and down the sunny walk, 
under the new-leaved chestnuts. He felt more at ease upon his 
legs ; and Amy found it very pleasant to have a strong arm to 
lean upon, a familiar face to smile at her, and a kind voice to 
talk delightfully for her alone. 

The quaint old garden had sheltered many pairs of lovers, 
and seemed expressly made for them, so sunny and secluded 
was it, with nothing but the tower to overlook them, and the 
wide lake to carry away the echo of their words, as it rippled 
by below. For an hour this new pair walked and talked, or 
rested on the wall, enjoying the sweet;' influences which gave 
such a charm to time and place; and when an unromantic 
dinner-bell warned them away, Amy felt as if she left her 
burden of loneliness and sorrow behind her in the chateau 
garden. 

The moment Mrs. Carrol saw the girl's altered face, she was 
illuminated with a new idea, and exclaimed to herself, " Now I 
understand it all, the child has been pining for young 
Laurence. Bless my heart, I never thought of such a thing ! " 

With praiseworthy discretion, the good lady said nothing, 
and betrayed no sign of enlightenment; but cordially urged 
Laurie to stay, and begged Amy to enjoy his society, for it 
would do her more good than so much solitude. Amy was a 
model of docility; and, as her aunt was a good deal occupied 



458 LITTLE WOMEN 

with Flo, she was left to entertain her friend, and did it with 
more than her usual success. 

At Nice, Laurie had lounged and Amy had scolded ; at Vevay, 
Laurie was never idle, but always walking, riding, boating, or 
studying, in the most energetic manner, while Amy admired 
everything he did, and followed his example as far and as 
fast as she could. He said the change was owing to the climate, 
and she did not contradict him, being glad of a like excuse for 
her own recovered health and spirits. 

The invigorating air did them both good, and much exercise 
worked wholesome changes in minds as well as bodies. They 
seemed to get clearer views of life and duty up there among 
the everlasting hills; the fresh winds blew away desponding 
doubts, delusive fancies, and moody mists; the warm spring 
sunshine brought out all sorts of aspiring ideas, tender hopes, 
and happy thoughts ; the lake seemed to wash away the troubles 
of the past, and the grand old mountains to look benignly down 
upon them, saying, " Little children, love one another." 

In spite of the new sorrow, it was a very happy time, so happy 
that Laurie could not bear to disturb it by a word. It took him 
a little while to recover from his surprise at the rapid cure of 
his first, and, as he had firmly believed, his last and only love. 
He consoled himself for the seeming disloyalty by the thought 
that Jo's sister was almost the same as Jo's self, and the 
conviction that it would have been impossible to love any other 
woman but Amy so soon and so well. His first wooing had 
been of the tempestuous order, and he looked back upon it as 
if through a long vista of years, with a feeling of compassion 
blended with regret. He was not ashamed of it, but put it 
away as one of the bitter-sweet experiences of his life, for 
which he could be grateful when the pain was over. His second 
wooing he resolved should be as calm and simple as possible; 
there was no need of having a scene, hardly any need of telling 
Amy that he loved her; she knew it without words, and had 
given him his answer long ago. It all came about so naturally 
that no one could complain, and he knew that everybody would 



LITTLE WOMEN 459 

be pleased, even Jo. But when our first little passion has been 
crushed, we are apt to be wary and slow in making a second 
trial; so Laurie let the days pass, enjoying every hour, and 
leaving to chance the utterance of the word that would put an 
end to the first and sweetest part of his new romance. 

He had rather imagined that the denouement would take place 
in the chateau garden by moonlight, and in the most graceful 
and decorous manner; but it turned out exactly the reverse, 
for the matter was settled on the lake, at noonday, in a few 
blunt words. They had been floating about all the morning, 
from gloomy St. Gingolf to sunny Montreux, with the Alps 
of Savoy on one side, Mont St. Bernard and the Dent du Midi 
on the other, pretty Vevay in the valley, and Lausanne upon the 
hill beyond, a cloudless blue sky overhead, and the bluer lake 
below, dotted with the picturesque boats that looked like white- 
winged gulls. 

They had been talking of Bonnivard, as they glided past 
Chillon, and of Rousseau, as they looked up at Clarens, where 
he wrote his " Heloise." Neither had read it, but they knew 
it was a love-story, and each privately wondered if it was half 
as interesting as their own. Amy had been dabbling her hand 
in the water during the little pause that fell between them, and, 
when she looked up, Laurie was leaning on his oars, with an 
expression in his eyes that made her say hastily, merely for the 
sake of saying something, 

" You must be tired ; rest a little, and let me row ; it will do 
me good ; for, since you came, I have been altogether lazy and 
luxurious." 

" I J m not tired ; but you may take an oar, if you like. 
There 's room enough, though I have to sit nearly in the middle, 
else the boat won't trim," returned Laurie, as if he rather liked 
the arrangement. 

Feeling that she had not mended matters much, Amy took 
the offered third of a seat, shook her hair over her face, and 
accepted an oar. She rowed as well as she did many other 
things ; and, though she used both hands, and Laurie but one, 



460 LITTLE WOMEN 

the oars kept time, and the boat went smoothly through the 
water. 

" How well we pull together, don't we ? " said Amy, who 
objected to silence just then. 

" So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat. 
Will you, Amy?" very tenderly. 

" Yes, Laurie," very low. 

Then they both stopped rowing, and unconsciously added a 
pretty little tableau of human love and happiness to the dissolv- 
ing views reflected in the lake. 



CHAPTER XLII. 

ALL ALONE. 

IT was easy to promise self-abnegation when self was 
wrapped up in another, and heart and soul were purified by a 
sweet example ; but when the helpful voice was silent, the daily 
lesson over, the beloved presence gone, and nothing remained 
but loneliness and grief, then Jo found her promise very hard 
to keep. How could she " comfort father and mother," when 
her own heart ached with a ceaseless longing for her sister; 
how could she " make the house cheerful," when all its light 
and warmth and beauty seemed to have deserted it when Beth 
left the old home for the new ; and where in all the world could 
she " find some useful, happy work to do," that would take the 
place of the loving service which had been its own reward? 
She tried in a blind, hopeless way to do her duty, secretly 
rebelling against it all the while, for it seemed unjust that 
her few joys should be lessened, her burdens made heavier, and 
life get harder and harder as she toiled along. Some people 
seemed to get all sunshine, and some all shadow ; it was not fair, 
for she tried more than Amy to be good, but never got any 
reward, only disappointment, trouble, and hard work. 

Poor Jo, these were dark days to her, for something like 



LITTLE WOMEN 461 

despair came over her when she thought of spending all her life 
in that quiet house, devoted to humdrum cares, a few small 
pleasures, and the duty that never seemed to grow any easier. 
" I can't do it. I was n't meant for a life like this, and I know 
I shall break away and do something desperate if somebody 
don't come and help me," she said to herself when her first 
efforts failed, and she fell into the moody, miserable state of 
mind which often comes when strong wills have to yield to 
the inevitable. 

But some one did come and help her, though Jo did not 
recognize her good angels at once, because they wore familiar 
shapes, and used the simple spells best fitted to poor humanity. 
Often she started up at night, thinking Beth called her; and 
when the sight of the little empty bed made her cry with the 
bitter cry of an unsubmissive sorrow, " O Beth, come back ! 
come back ! " she did not stretch out her yearning arms in vain ; 
for, as quick to hear her sobbing as she had been to hear her 
sister's faintest whisper, her mother came to comfort her, not 
with words only, but the patient tenderness that soothes by a 
touch, tears that were mute reminders of a greater grief than 
Jo's, and broken whispers, more eloquent than prayers, because 
hopeful resignation went hand-in-hand with natural sorrow. 
Sacred moments, when heart talked to heart in the silence of 
the night, turning affliction to a blessing, which chastened grief 
and strengthened love. Feeling this, Jo's burden seemed easier 
to bear, duty grew sweeter, and life looked more endurable, 
seen from the safe shelter of her mother's arms. 

When aching heart was a little comforted, troubled mind 
likewise found help ; for one day she went to the study, and, 
leaning over the good gray head lifted to welcome her with a 
tranquil smile, she said, very humbly, 

" Father, talk to me as you did to Beth. I need it more 
than she did, for I 'm all wrong." 

" My dear, nothing can comfort me like this," he answered, 
with a falter in his voice, and both arms round her, as if he, 
too, needed help, and did not fear to ask it. 



462 LITTLE WOMEN 

Then, sitting in Beth's little chair close beside him, Jo told 
her troubles, the resentful sorrow for her loss, the fruitless 
efforts that discouraged her, the want of faith that made life 
look so dark, and all the sad bewilderment which we call despair. 
She gave him entire confidence, he gave her the help she needed, 
and both found consolation in the act; for the time had come 
when they could talk together not only as father and daughter, 
but as man and woman, able and glad to serve each other with 
mutual sympathy as well as mutual love. Happy, thoughtful 
times there in the old study which Jo called " the church of one 
member," and from which she came with fresh courage, re- 
covered cheerfulness, and a more submissive spirit ; for the 
parents who had taught one child to meet death without fear, 
were trying now to teach another to accept life without despond- 
ency or distrust, and to use its beautiful opportunities with 
gratitude and power. 

Other helps had Jo, humble, wholesome duties and delights 
that would not be denied their part in serving her, and which 
she slowly learned to see and value. Brooms and dishcloths 
never could be as distasteful as they once had been, for Beth 
had presided over both; and something of her housewifely spirit 
seemed to linger round the little mop and the old brush, that 
was never thrown away. As she used them, Jo found herself 
humming the songs Beth used to hum, imitating Beth's orderly 
ways, and giving the little touches here and there that kept 
everything fresh and cosey, which was the first step toward mak- 
ing home happy, though she did n't know it, till Hannah said 
with an approving squeeze of the hand, 

" You thoughtful rreter, you 're determined we sha'n't miss 
that dear lamb ef you can help it. We don't say much, but 
we see it, and the Lord will bless you for 't, see ef He don't." 

As they sat sewing together, Jo discovered how much im- 
proved her sister Meg was ; how well she could talk, how much 
she knew about good, womanly impulses, thoughts, and feelings, 
how happy she was in husband and children, and how much 
they were all doing for each other. 



LITTLE WOMEN 463 

" Marriage is an excellent thing, after all. I wonder if I 
should blossom out half as well as you have, if I tried it ? " 
said Jo, as she constructed a kite for Demi, in the topsy-turvy 
nursery. 

" It 's just what you need to bring out the tender, womanly 
half of your nature, Jo. You are like a chestnut-burr, prickly 
outside, but silky-soft within, and a sweet kernel, if one can 
only get at it. Love will make you show your heart some day, 
and then the rough burr will fall off." 

" Frost opens chestnut-burrs, ma'am, and it takes a good 
shake to bring them down. Boys go nutting, and I don't care 
to be bagged by them," returned Jo, pasting away at the kite 
which no wind that blows would ever carry up, for Daisy had 
tied herself on as a bob. 

Meg laughed, for she was glad to see a glimmer of Jo's old 
spirit, but she felt it her duty to enforce her opinion by every 
argument in her power ; and the sisterly chats were not wasted, 
especially as two of Meg's most effective arguments were the 
babies, whom Jo loved tenderly. Grief is the best opener for 
some hearts, and Jo's was nearly ready for the bag: a little 
more sunshine to ripen the nut, then, not a boy's impatient shake, 
but a man's hand reached up to pick it gently from the burr, 
and find the kernel sound and sweet. If she had suspected this, 
she would have shut up tight, and been more prickly than 
ever ; fortunately she was n't thinking about herself, so, when 
the time came, down she dropped. 

Now, if she had been the heroine of a moral story-book, she 
ought at this period of her life to have become quite saintly, 
renounced the world, and gone about doing good in a mortified 
bonnet, with tracts in her pocket. But, you see, Jo was n't a 
heroine ; she was only a struggling human girl, like hundreds of 
others, and she just acted out her nature, being sad, cross, list- 
less, or energetic, as the mood suggested. It 's highly virtuous 
to say we '11 be good, but we can't do it all at once, and it takes 
a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together, before some of 
us even get our feet set in the right way. Jo had got so far f 



464 LITTLE WOMEN 

she was learning to do her duty, and to feel unhappy if she did 
not ; but to do it cheerfully ah, that was another thing ! She 
had often said she wanted to do something splendid, no matter 
how hard ; and now she had her wish, for what could be more 
beautiful than to devote her life to father and mother, trying to 
make home as happy to them as they had to her? And, if 
difficulties were necessary to increase the splendor of the effort, 
what could be harder for a restless, ambitious girl than to give 
up her own hopes, plans, and desires, and cheerfully live for 
others ? 

Providence had taken her at her word; here was the task, 
not what she had expected, but better, because self had no part 
in it: now, could she do it? She decided that she would try; 
and, in her first attempt, she found the helps I have suggested. 
Still another was given her, and she took it, not as a reward, 
but as a comfort, as Christian took the refreshment afforded 
by the little arbor where he rested, as he climbed the hill called 
Difficulty. 

" Why don't you write ? That always used to make you 
happy," said her mother, once, when the desponding fit over- 
shadowed Jo. 

" I 've no heart to write, and if I had, nobody cares for my 
things/' 

" We do ; write something for us, and never mind the rest 
of the world. Try it, dear ; I 'm sure it would do you good, 
and please us very much." 

" Don't believe I can ; " but Jo got out her desk, and began 
to overhaul her half -finished manuscripts. 

An hour afterwards her mother peeped in, and there she was, 
scratching away, with her black pinafore on, and an absorbed 
expression, which caused Mrs. March to smile and slip away, 
well pleased with the success of her suggestion. Jo never knew 
how it happened, but something got into that story that went 
straight to the hearts of those who read it ; for, when her family 
had laughed and cried over it, her father sent it, much against 
her will, to one of the popular magazines, and, to her utter sur- 



LITTLE WOMEN 465 

prise, it was not only paid for, but others requested, Letters 
from several persons, whose praise was honor, followed the 
appearance of the little story, newspapers copied it, and 
strangers as well as friends admired it. For a small thing it was 
a great success; and Jo was more astonished than when her 
novel was commended and condemned all at once. 

" I don't understand it. What can there be in a simple little 
story like that, to make people praise it so ? " she said, quite 
bewildered. 

" There is truth in it, Jo, that 's the secret ; humor and pathos 
make it alive, and you have found your style at last. You wrote 
with no thought of fame or money, and put your heart into it, 
my daughter; you have had the bitter, now comes the sweet. 
Do your best, and grow as happy as we are in your success." 

"If there is anything good or true in what I write, it is n't 
mine; I owe it all to you and mother and to Beth," said Jo, 
more touched by her father's words than by any amount of 
praise from the world. 

So, taught by love and sorrow, Jo wrote her little stories, and 
sent them away to make friends for themselves and her, find- 
ing it a very charitable world to such humble wanderers ; for 
they were kindly welcomed, and sent home comfortable tokens 
to their mother, like dutiful children whom good fortune over- 
takes. 

When Amy and Laurie wrote of their engagement, Mrs. 
March feared that Jo would find it difficult to rejoice over it, 
but her fears were soon set at rest ; for, though Jo looked grave 
at first, she took it very quietly, and was full of hopes and 
plans for " the children " before she read the letter twice. It 
was a sort of written duet, wherein each glorified the other in 
lover-like fashion, very pleasant to read and satisfactory to 
think of, for no one had any objection to make. 

" You like it, mother ? " said Jo, as they laid down the closely 
written sheets, and looked at one another. 

" Yes, I hoped it would be so, ever since Amy wrote that she 
had refused Fred, I felt sure then that something better than 



466 LITTLE WOMEN 

what you call the ' mercenary spirit ' had come over her, and a 
hint here and there in her letters made me suspect that love 
and Laurie would win the day." 

" How sharp you are, Marmee, and how silent ! You never 
said a word to me." 

" Mothers have need of sharp eyes and discreet tongues when 
they have girls to manage. I was half afraid to put the idea into 
your head, lest you should write and congratulate them before 
the thing was settled." 

" I 'm not the scatter-brain I was ; you may trust me, I 'm 
sober and sensible enough for any one's confidante now." 

" So you are, dear, and I should have made you mine, only 
I fancied it might pain you to learn that your Teddy loved any 
one else." 

" Now, mother, did you really think I could be so silly and 
selfish, after I 'd refused his love, when it was freshest, if 
not best?" 

" I knew you were sincere then, Jo, but lately I have thought 
that if he came back, and asked again, you might, perhaps, feel 
like giving another answer. Forgive me, dear, I can't help 
seeing that you are very lonely, and sometimes there is a hungry 
look in your eyes that goes to my heart ; so I fancied that your 
boy might fill the empty place if he tried now." 

" No, mother, it is better as it is, and I 'm glad Amy has 
learned to love him. But you are right in one thing: I am 
lonely, and perhaps if Teddy had tried again, I might have said 
1 Yes/ not because I love him any more, but because I care more 
to be loved than when he went away." 

" I 'm glad of that, Jo, for it shows that you are getting on. 
There are plenty to love you, so try to be satisfied with father 
and mother, sisters and brothers, friends and babies, till the 
best lover of all comes to give you your reward." 

" Mothers are the best lovers in the world : but I don't mind 
whispering to Marmee that I 'd like to try all kinds. It 's very 
curious, but the more I try to satisfy myself with all sorts of 
natural affections, the more I seem to want. I 'd no idea hearts 



LITTLE WOMEN 467 

could take in so many; mine is so elastic, it never seems full 
now, and I used to be quite contented with my family. I don't 
understand it." 

" I do ! " and Mrs. March smiled her wise smile, as Jo turned 
back the leaves to read what Amy said of Laurie. 

" It is so beautiful to be loved as Laurie loves me ; he is n't 
sentimental, does n't say much about it, but I see and feel it in 
all he says and does, and it makes me so happy and so humble 
that I don't seem to be the same girl I was. I never knew how 
good and generous and tender he was till now, for he lets me 
read his heart, and I find it full of noble impulses and hopes 
and purposes, and am so proud to know it 's mine. He says 
he feels as if he ' could make a prosperous voyage now with me 
aboard as mate, and lots of love for ballast/ I pray he may, 
and try to be all he believes me, for I love my gallant captain 
with all my heart and soul and might, and never will desert him, 
while God lets us be together. O mother, I never knew how 
much like heaven this world could be, when two people love and 
live for one another ! " 

" And that 's our cool, reserved, and worldly Amy ! Truly, 
love does work miracles. How very, very happy they must be ! " 
And Jo laid the rustling sheets together with a careful hand, 
as one might shut the covers of a lovely romance, which holds 
the reader fast till the end comes, and he finds himself alone 
in the work-a-day world again. 

By and by Jo roamed away upstairs, for it was rainy, and she 
could not walk. A restless spirit possessed her, and the old 
feeling came again, not bitter as it once was, but a sorrowfully 
patient wonder why one sister should have all she asked, the 
other nothing. It was not true ; she knew that, and tried to put 
it away, but the natural craving for affection was strong, and 
Amy's happiness woke the hungry longing for some one to 
" love with heart and soul, and cling to while God let them 
be together." 

Up in the garret, where Jo's unquiet wanderings ended, stood 
four little wooden chests in a row, each marked with its owner's 



468 LITTLE WOMEN 

name, and each filled with relics of the childhood and girlhood 
ended now for all. Jo glanced into them, and when she came 
to her own, leaned her chin on the edge, and stared absently at 
the chaotic collection, till a bundle of old exercise-books caught 
her eye. She drew them out, turned them over, and re-lived 
that pleasant winter at kind Mrs. Kirke's. She had smiled at 
first, then she looked thoughtful, next sad, and when she came 
to a little message written in the Professor's hand, her lips 
began to tremble, the books slid out of her lap, and she sat 
looking at the friendly words, as if they took a new meaning, 
and touched a tender spot in her heart. 

" Wait for me, my friend. I may be a little late, but I shall 
surely come." 

" Oh, if he only would ! So kind, so good, so patient with 
me always, my dear old Fritz, I did n't value him half enough 
when I had him, but now how I should love to see him, for every 
one seems going away from me, and I 'm all alone." 

And holding the little paper fast, as if it were a promise 
yet to be fulfilled, Jo laid her head down on a comfortable rag- 
bag, and cried, as if in opposition to the rain pattering on the 
roof. 

Was it all self-pity, loneliness, or low spirits? or was it the 
waking up of a sentiment which had bided its time as patiently 
as its inspirer? Who shall say? 



CHAPTER XLIII. 

SURPRISES. 

Jo was alone in the twilight, lying on the old sofa, looking at 
the fire, and thinking. It was her favorite way of spending the 
hour of dusk ; no one disturbed her, and she used to lie there on 
Beth's little red pillow, planning stories, dreaming dreams, or 
thinking tender thoughts of the sister who never seemed far 
away. Her face looked tired, grave, and rather sad; for to- 



LITTLE WOMEN 469 

morrow was her birthday, and she was thinking how fast the 
years went by, how old she was getting, and how little she 
seemed to have accomplished. Almost twenty-five, and nothing 
to show for it. Jo was mistaken in that ; there was a good deal 
to show, and by and by she saw, and was grateful for it. 

" An old maid, that 's what I 'm to be. A literary spinster, 
with a pen for a spouse, a family of stories for children, and 
twenty years hence a morsel of fame, perhaps ; when, like poor 
Johnson, I 'm old, and can't enjoy it, solitary, and can't share 
it, independent, and don't need it. Well, I need n't be a sour 
saint nor a selfish sinner; and, I dare say, old maids are very 
comfortable when they get used to it ; but " and there Jo 
sighed, as if the prospect was not inviting. 

It seldom is, at first, and thirty seems the end of all things 
to five-and-twenty ; but it 's not so bad as it looks, and one can 
get on quite happily if one has something in one's self to fall 
back upon. At twenty-five, girls begin to talk about being old 
maids, but secretly resolve that they never will be ; at thirty they 
say nothing about it, but quietly accept the fact, and, if sensible, 
console themselves by remembering that they have twenty more 
useful, happy years, in which they may be learning to grow old 
gracefully. Don't laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often 
very tender, tragical romances are hidden away in the hearts 
that beat so quietly under the sober gowns, and many silent 
sacrifices of youth, health, ambition, love itself, make the faded 
faces beautiful in God 's sight. Even the sad, sour sisters should 
be kindly dealt with, because they have missed the sweetest 
part of life, if for no other reason ; and, looking at them with 
compassion, not contempt, girls in their bloom should remem- 
ber that they too may miss the blossom time ; that rosy cheeks 
don't last forever, that silver threads will come in the bonnie 
brown hair, and that, by and by, kindness and respect will be 
as sweet as love and admiration now. 

Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the old maids, 
no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry 
worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to 



470 LITTLE WOMEN 

the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of 
rank, age, or color. Just recollect the good aunts who have not 
only lectured and fussed, but nursed and petted, too often with- 
out thanks ; the scrapes they have helped you out of, the " tips " 
they have given you from their small store, the stitches the 
patient old ringers have set for you, the steps the willing old 
feet have taken, and gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little 
attentions that women love to receive as long as they live. The 
bright-eyed girls are quick to see such traits, and will like you 
all the better for them ; and if death, almost the only power that 
can part mother and son, should rob you of yours, you will 
be sure to find a tender welcome and maternal cherishing from 
some Aunt Priscilla, who has kept the warmest corner of her 
lonely old heart for " the best nevvy in the world." 

Jo must have fallen asleep (as I dare say my reader has dur- 
ing this little homily), for suddenly Laurie's ghost seemed to 
stand before her, a substantial, lifelike ghost, leaning over 
her, with the very look he used to wear when he felt a good 
deal and did n't like to show it. But, like Jenny in the ballad, 

" She could not think it he," 

and lay staring up at him in startled silence, till he stooped and 
kissed her. Then she knew him, and flew up, crying joyfully, 

" O my Teddy ! O my Teddy ! " 

" Dear Jo, you are glad to see me, then ? " 

" Glad ! My blessed boy, words can't express my gladness. 
Where's Amy?" 

" Your mother has got her down at Meg's. We stopped there 
by the wa^, and there was no getting my wife out of their 
clutches." 

* " Your what ? " cried Jo, for Laurie uttered those two 
words with an unconscious pride and satisfaction which be- 
trayed him. 

" Oh, the dickens ! now I 've done it ; " and he looked so 
guilty that Jo was down upon him like a flash. 

" You 've gone and got married ! " 



LITTLE WOMEN 471 

'* Yea, please, but I never will again ; " and he went down 
upon his knees, with a penitent clasping of hands, and a face 
5ull of mischief, mirth, and triumph. 

"Actually married?" 

" Very much so, thank you." 

"Mercy on us! What dreadful thing will you do next?" 
and Jo fell into her seat, with a gasp. 

" A characteristic, but not exactly complimentary congratula- 
tion," returned Laurie, still in an abject attitude, but beaming 
with satisfaction. 

" What can you expect, when you take one's breath away, 
creeping in like a burglar, and letting cats out of bags like 
that ? Get up, you ridiculous boy, and tell me all about it." 

" Not a word, unless you let me come in my old place, and 
promise not to barricade." 

Jo laughed at that as she had not done for many a long day, 
and patted the sofa invitingly, as she said, in a cordial tone, 

" The old pillow is up garret, and we don't need it now ; so, 
come and 'fess, Teddy." 

" How good it sounds to hear you say ' Teddy ' ! No one 
ever calls me that but you ; " and Laurie sat down, with an 
air of great content. 

" What does Amy call you ? " 

" My lord." 

" That 's like her. Well, you look it ; " and Jo's eyes plainly 
betrayed that she found her boy comelier than ever. 

The pillow was gone, but there was a barricade, neverthe- 
less, a natural one, raised by time, absence, and change of 
heart. Both felt it, and for a minute looked at one another as 
if that invisible barrier cast a little shadow over them. It was 
gone directly, however, for Laurie said, with a vain attempt 
at dignity, 

" Don't I look like a married man and the head of a family ? " 

" Not a bit, and you never will. You 've grown bigger and 
bonnier, but you are the same scapegrace as ever." 



LITTLE WOMEN 

" Now, really, Jo, you ought to treat me with more respect," 
'began Laurie, who enjoyed it all immensely. 

" How can I, when the mere idea of you, married and settled, 
is so irresistibly funny that I can't keep sober ! " answered Jo, 
smiling all over her face, so infectiously that they had another 
laugh, and then settled down for a good talk, quite in the pleas- 
ant old fashion. 

" It 's no use your going out in the cold to get Amy, for they 
are all coming up presently. I could n't wait ; I wanted to be 
the one to tell you the grand surprise, and have ' first skim/ 
as we used to say when we squabbled about the cream." 

" Of course you did, and spoilt your story by beginning at 
the wrong end. Now, start right, and tell me how it all 
happened ; I 'm pining to know." 

" Well, I did it to please Amy/' began Laurie, with a twinkle 
that made Jo exclaim, 

" Fib number one ; Amy did it to please you. Go on, and 
tell the truth, if you can, sir." 

" Now she 's beginning to marm it ; is n't it jolly to hear 
her ? " said Laurie to the fire, and the fire glowed and sparkled 
as if it quite agreed. " It 's all the same you know, she and I 
being one. We planned to come home with the Carrols, a month 
or more ago, but they suddenly changed their minds, and de- 
cided to pass another winter in Paris. But grandpa wanted to 
come home ; he went to please me, and I could n't let him go 
alone, neither could I leave Amy; and Mrs. Carrol had got 
English notions about chaperons and such nonsense, and 
would n't let Amy come with us. So I just settled the difficulty 
be saying, ' Let 's be married, and then we can do as we like.' " 
" Of course you did; you always have things *o suit you." 
" Not always ; " and something in Laurie's voice made Jo say 
hastily, 

" How did you ever get aunt to agree ? " 
" It was hard work ; but, between us, we talked her over, for 
we had heaps of good reasons on our side. There was n't time 
to write and ask leave, but you all liked it, had consented to it 



LITTLE WOMEN 473 

by and by, and it was only ' taking Time by the fetlock/ as my 
wife says." 

" Are n't we proud of those two words, and don't we like to 
say them ? " interrupted Jo, addressing the fire in her turn, and 
watching with delight the happy light it seemed to kindle in 
the eyes that had been so tragically gloomy when she saw them 
last. 

" A trifle, perhaps ; she 's such a captivating little woman I 
can't help being proud of her. Well, then, uncle and aunt were 
there to play propriety ; we were so absorbed in one another we 
were of no mortal use apart, and that charming arrangement 
would make everything easy all round ; so we did it." 

" When, where, how ? " asked Jo, in a fever of feminine in- 
terest and curiosity, for she could not realize it a particle. 

" Six weeks ago, at the American consul's, in Paris ; a very 
quiet wedding, of course, for even in our happiness we did n't 
forget dear little Beth." 

Jo put her hand in his as he said that, and Laurie gently 
smoothed the little red pillow, which he remembered well. 

" Why did n't you let us know afterward ? " asked Jo, in a 
quieter tone, when they had sat quite still a minute. 

" We wanted to surprise you ; we thought we were coming 
directly home, at first ; but the dear old gentleman, as soon as 
we were married, found he could n't be ready under a month, 
at least, and sent us off to spend our honeymoon wherever we 
liked. Amy had once called Valrosa a regular honeymoon home, 
so we went there, and were as happy as people are but once in 
their lives. My faith ! was n't it love among the roses ! " 

Laurie seemed to forget Jo for a minute, and Jo was glad 
of it; for the fact that he told her these things so freely and 
naturally assured her that he had quite forgiven and forgotten. 
She tried to draw away her hand; but, as if he guessed the 
thought that prompted the half-involuntary impulse, Laurie held 
it fast, and said, with a manly gravity she had never seen in 
him before, 

" Jo, dear, I want to say one thing, and then we '11 put it by 



474 LITTLE WOMEN 

forever. As I told you in my letter, when I wrote that Amy 
had been so kind to me, I never shall stop loving you ; but the 
love is altered, and I have learned to see that it is better as it 
is. Amy and you change places in my heart, that 's all. I think 
it was meant to be so, and would have come about naturally, 
if I had waited, as you tried to make me; but I never could 
be patient, and so I got a heartache. I was a boy then, head- 
strong and violent; and it took a hard lesson to show me my 
mistake. For it was one, Jo, as you said, and I found it out, 
after making a fool of myself. Upon my word, I was so 
tumbled up in my mind, at one time, that I did n't know which 
I loved best, you or Amy, and tried to love both alike; but I 
could n't, and when I saw her in Switzerland, everything seemed 
to clear up all at once. You both got into your right places, 
and I felt sure that it was well off with the old love before it 
was on with the new; that I could honestly share my heart 
between sister Jo and wife Amy, and love them both dearly. 
Will you believe it, and go back to the happy old times when 
we first knew one another ? " 

" I '11 believe it, with all my heart ; but, Teddy, we never can 
be boy and girl again : the happy old times can't come back, and 
we must n't expect it. We are man and woman now, with sober 
work to do, for playtime is over, and we must give up frolicking. 
I 'm sure you feel this ; I see the change in you, and you '11 
find it in me. I shall miss my boy, but I shall love the man as 
much, and admire him more, because he means to be what I 
hoped he would. We can't be little playmates any longer, but 
we will be brother and sister, to love and help one another all 
our lives, won't we, Laurie ? " 

He did not say a word, but took the hand she offered him, an& 
laid his face down on it for a minute, feeling that out of the 
grave of a boyish passion, there had risen a beautiful, strong 
friendship to bless them both. Presently Jo said cheerfully, for 
she did n't want the coming home to be a sad one, 

" I can't make it true that you children are really married. 



LITTLE WOMEN 475 

and going to set up housekeeping. Why, it seems only yester- 
day that I was buttoning Amy's pinafore, and pulling your hair 
when you teased. Mercy me, how time does fly ! " 

" As one of the children is older than yourself, you need n't 
talk so like a grandma. I flatter myself I 'm a ' gentleman 
growed,' as Peggotty said of David; and when you see Amy, 
you '11 find her rather a precocious infant," said Laurie, looking 
amused at her maternal air. 

91 You may be a little older in years, but I 'm ever so much 
older in feeling, Teddy. Women always are ; and this last year 
has been such a hard one that I feel forty." 

" Poor Jo ! we left you to bear it alone, while we went pleas- 
uring. You are older ; here's a line, and there 's another ; unless 
you smile, your eyes look sad, and when I touched the cushion, 
just now, I found a tear on it. You Ve had a great deal to 
bear, and had to bear it all alone. What a selfish beast I Ve 
been ! " and Laurie pulled his own hair, with a remorseful look. 

But Jo only turned over the traitorous pillow, and answered, 
in a tone which she tried to make quite cheerful, 

" No, I had father and mother to help me, the dear babies 
to comfort me, and the thought that you and Amy were safe 
and happy, to make the troubles here easier to bear. I am 
lonely, sometimes, but I dare say it 's good for me, and " 

" You never shall be again," broke in Laurie, putting his arm 
about her, as if to fence out every human ill. " Amy and I 
can't get on without you, so you must come and teach ' the chil- 
dren ' to keep house, and go halves in everything, just as we 
used to do, and let us pet you, and all be blissfully happy and 
friendly together." 

" If I should n't be in the way, it would be very pleasant. 
I begin to feel quite young already; for, somehow, all my 
troubles seemed to fly away when you came. You always were 
a comfort, Teddy ; " and Jo leaned her head on his shoulder, 
just as she did years ago, when Beth lay ill, and Laurie told 
her to hold on to him. 

He looked down at her, wondering if she remembered the 



476 LITTLE WOMEN 

time, but Jo was smiling to herself, as if, in truth, her doubles 
had all vanished at his coming. 

" You are the same Jo still, dropping tears about one minute, 
and laughing the next. You look a little wicked now; what is 
it, grandma?" 

" I was wondering how you and Amy get on together." 

" Like angels ! " 

" Yes, of course, at first ; but which rules ? " 

" I don't mind telling you that she does, now ; at least I let 
her think so, it pleases her, you know. By and by we shall 
take turns, for marriage, they say, halves one 's rights and 
doubles one 's duties." 

" You '11 go on as you begin, and Amy will rule you all the 
days of your life." 

" Well, she does it so imperceptibly that I don't think I shall 
mind much. She is the sort of woman who knows how to rule 
well ; in fact, I rather like it, for she winds one round her finger 
as softly and prettily as a skein of silk, and makes you feel as 
if she was doing you a favor all the while." 

" That ever I should live to see you a henpecked husband and 
enjoying it! " cried Jo, with uplifted hands. 

It was good to see Laurie square his shoulders, and smile with 
masculine scorn at that insinuation, as he replied, with his 
" high and mighty " air, 

" Amy is too well-bred for that, and I am not the sort of man 
to submit to it. My wife and I respect ourselves and one an- 
other too much ever to tyrannize or quarrel." 

Jo liked that, and thought the new dignity very becoming, 
but the boy seemed changing very fast into the man, and regret 
mingled with her pleasure. 

" I am sure of that ; Amy and you never did quarrel as we 
used to. She is the sun and I the wind, in the fable, and the 
sun managed the man best, you remember." 

" She can blow him up as well as shine on him," laughed 
Laurie. " Such a lecture as I got at Nice ! I give you my word 
it was a deal worse than any of your scoldings, a regular 



LITTLE WOMEN 477 

rouser. I'll tell you all about it sometime, she never will, 
because, after telling me that she despised and was ashamed of 
me; she lost her heart to the despicable party and married the 
good-for-nothing." 

" What baseness ! Well, if she abuses you, come to me, and 
I '11 defend you." 

" I look as if I needed it, don't I ? " said Laurie, getting up 
and striking an attitude which suddenly changed from the im- 
posing to the rapturous, as Amy's voice was heard calling, 

" Where is she ? Where 's my dear old Jo ? " 

In trooped the whole family, and every one was hugged and 
kissed all over again, and, after several vain attempts, the three 
wanderers were set down to be looked at and exulted over. Mr. 
Laurence, hale and hearty as ever, was quite as much improved 
as the others by his foreign tour, for the crustiness seemed to 
be nearly gone, and the old-fashioned courtliness had received 
a polish which made it kindlier than ever. It was good to see 
him beam at "my children," as he called the young pair; it 
was better still to see Amy pay him the daughterly duty and 
affection which completely won his old heart ; and best of all, to 
watch Laurie revolve about the two, as if never tired of enjoy- 
ing the pretty picture they made. 

The minute she put her eyes upon Amy, Meg became con- 
scious that her own dress had n't a Parisian air, that young Mrs. 
Moffat would be entirely eclipsed by young Mrs. Laurence, and 
that " her ladyship " was altogether a most elegant and graceful 
woman. Jo thought, as she watched the pair, " How well they 
look together ! I was right, and Laurie has found the beautiful, 
accomplished girl who will become his home better than clumsy 
old Jo, and be a pride, not a torment to him." Mrs. March and 
her husband smiled and nodded at each other with happy faces, 
for they saw that their youngest had done well, not only in 
worldly things, but the better wealth of love, confidence, and 
happiness. 

For Amy's face was full of the soft brightness which be- 
tokens a peaceful heart, her voice had a new tenderness in it, 



478 LITTLE WOMEN 

and the cool, prim carriage was changed to a gentle dignity, 
both womanly and winning. No little affectations marred it, 
and the cordial sweetness of her manner was more charming 
than the new beauty or the old grace, for it stamped her at once 
with the unmistakable sign of the true gentlewoman she had 
hoped to become. 

" Love has done much for our little girl," said her mother 
softly. 

" She has had a good example before her all her life, my 
dear," Mr. March whispered back, with a loving look at the 
worn face and gray head beside him. 

Daisy found it impossible to keep her eyes off her " pitty 
aunty," but attached herself like a lap-dog to the wonderful 
chatelaine full of delightful charms. Demi paused to consider 
the new relationship before he compromised himself by the 
rash acceptance of a bribe, which took the tempting form of a 
family of wooden bears from Berne. A flank movement pro- 
duced an unconditional surrender, however, for Laurie knew 
where to have him. 

"Young man, when I first had the honor of making your 
acquaintance you hit me in the face: now I demand the satis- 
faction of a gentleman ; " and with that the tall uncle proceeded 
to toss and tousle the small nephew in a way that damaged his 
philosophical dignity as much as it delighted his boyish soul. 

" Blest if she ain't in silk from head to foot ? Ain't it a 
relishin' sight to see her settin' there as fine as a fiddle, and 
hear folks calling little Amy, Mis. Laurence ? " muttered old 
Hannah, who could not resist frequent " peeks " through the 
slide as she set the table in a most decidedly promiscuous 
manner. 

Mercy on us, how they did talk! first one, then the other, 
then all burst out together, trying to tell the history of three 
years in half an hour. It was fortunate that tea was at hand, 
to produce a lull and provide refreshment, for they would have 
been hoarse and faint if they had gone on much longer. Such 
a happy procession as filed away into the little dining-room! 



LITTLE WOMEN 479 

Mr. March proudly escorted " Mrs. Laurence ; " Mrs. March 
as proudly leaned on the arm of " my son ; " the old gentleman 
took Jo, with a whispered " You must be my girl now," and a 
glance at the empty corner by the fire, that made Jo whisper 
back, with trembling lips, " I '11 try to fill her place, sir." 

The twins pranced behind, feeling that the millennium was at 
hand, for every one was so busy with the newcomers that they 
were left to revel at their own sweet will, and you may be sure 
they made the most of the opportunity. Did n't they steal sips 
of tea, stuff gingerbread ad libitum, get a hot biscuit apiece, and, 
as a crowning trespass, didn't they each whisk a captivating 
little tart into their tiny pockets, there to stick and crumble 
treacherously, teaching them that both human nature and pastry 
are frail? Burdened with the guilty consciousness of the 
sequestered tarts, and fearing that Dodo's sharp eyes would 
pierce the thin disguise of cambric and merino which hid their 
booty, the little sinners attached themselves to " Dranpa," who 
had n't his spectacles on. Amy, who was handed about like re- 
freshments, returned to the parlor on Father Laurence's arm; 
the others paired off as before, and this arrangement left Jo 
companionless. She did not mind it at the minute, for she 
lingered to answer Hannah's eager inquiry, 

" Will Miss Amy ride in her coop (coupe), and use all them 
lovely silver dishes that 's stored away over yander ? " 

" Should n't wonder if she drove six white horses, ate off 
gold plate, and wore diamonds and point-lace every day. Teddy 
thinks nothing too good for her," returned Jo with infinite satis- 
faction. 

" No more there is ! Will you have hash or fish-balls for 
breakfast ? " asked Hannah, who wisely mingled poetry and 
prose. 

" I don't care ; " and Jo shut the door, feeling that food was 
an uncongenial topic just then. She stood a minute looking at 
the party vanishing above, and, as Demi's short plaid legs toiled 
up the last stair, a sudden sense of loneliness came over her so 
strongly that she looked about her with dim eyes, as if to find 



480 LITTLE WOMEN 

something to lean upon, for even Teddy had deserted her. If 
she had known what birthday gift was coming every minute 
nearer and nearer, she would not have said to herself, " I '11 
weep a little weep when I go to bed ; it won't do to be dismal 
now." Then she drew her hand over her eyes, for one of her 
boyish habits was never to know where her handkerchief was, 
and had just managed to call up a smile when there came a 
knock at the porch-door. 

She opened it with hospitable haste, and started as if an- 
other ghost had come to surprise her; for there stood a tall 
bearded gentleman, beaming on her from the darkness like a 
midnight sun. 

" O Mr. Bhaer, I am so glad to see you ! " cried Jo, with a 
clutch, as if she feared the night would swallow him up before 
she could get him in. 

" And I to see Miss Marsch, but no, you haf a party " 
and the Professor paused as the sound of voices and the tap of 
dancing feet came down to them. 

" No, we have n't, only the family. My sister and friends 
have just come home, and we are all very happy. Come in, 
and make one of us." 

Though a very social man, I think Mr. Bhaer would have 
gone decorously away, and come again another day; but how 
could he, when Jo shut the door behind him, and bereft him of 
his hat ? Perhaps her face had something to do with it, for she 
forgot to hide her joy at seeing him, and showed it with a 
frankness that proved irresistible to the solitary man, whose 
welcome far exceeded his boldest hopes. 

" If I shall not be Monsieur de Trop, I will so gladly see 
them all. You haf been ill, my friend ? " 

He put the question abruptly, for, as Jo hung up his coat, 
the light fell on her face, arid he saw a change in it. 

" Not ill, but tired and sorrowful. We have had trouble since 
I saw you last." 

" Ah, yes, I know. My heart was sore for you when I heard 
chat ! " and he shook hands again, with such a sympathetic face 



LITTLE WOMEN 481 

that Jo felt as if no comfort could equal the look of the kind 
eyes, the grasp of the big, warm hand. 

" Father, mother, this is my friend, Professor Bhaer," she 
said, with a face and tone of such irrepressible pride and pleas- 
ure that she might as well have blown a trumpet and opened 
the door with a flourish. 

If the stranger had had any doubts about his reception, they 
were set at rest in a minute by the cordial welcome he received. 
Every one greeted him kindly, for Jo's sake at first, but very 
soon they liked him for his own. They could not help it, for 
he carried the talisman that opens all hearts, and these simple 
people warmed to him at once, feeling even the more friendly 
because he was poor ; for poverty enriches those who live above 
it, and is a sure passport to truly hospitable spirits. Mr. Bhaer 
sat looking about him with the air of a traveller who knocks 
at a strange door, and, when it opens, finds himself at home. 
The children went to him like bees to a honey-pot ; and, estab- 
lishing themselves on each knee, proceeded to captivate him 
by rifling his pockets, pulling his beard, and investigating his 
watch, with juvenile audacity. The women telegraphed their 
approval to one another, and Mr. March, feeling that he had got 
a kindred spirit, opened his choicest stores for his guest's bene- 
fit, while silent John listened and enjoyed the talk, but said not 
a word, and Mr. Laurence found it impossible to go to sleep. 

If Jo had not been otherwise engaged, Laurie's behavior 
would have amused her; for a faint twinge, not of jealousy, but 
something like suspicion, caused that gentleman to stand aloof at 
first, and observe the new-comer with brotherly circumspection. 
But it did not last long. He got interested in spite of himself, 
and, before he knew it, was drawn into the circle; for Mr. 
Bhaer talked well in this genial atmosphere, and did himself 
justice. He seldom spoke to Laurie, but looked at him often, 
and a shadow would pass across his face, as if regretting his 
own lost youth, as he watched the young man in his prime. 
Then his eye would turn to Jo so wistfully that she would have 
surely answered the mute inquiry if she had seen it ; but Jo had 



482 LiTTLE WOMEN 

her own eyes to take care of, and, feeling that they could not 
be trusted, she prudently kept them on the little sock she was 
knitting, like a model maiden aunt. 

A stealthy glance now and then refreshed her like sips of 
fresh water after a dusty walk, for the sidelong peeps showed 
her several propitious omens. Mr. Bhaer's face had lost the 
absent-minded expression, and looked all alive with interest in 
the present moment, actually young and handsome, she thought, 
forgetting to compare him with Laurie, as she usually did 
strange men, to their great detriment. Then he seemed quite 
inspired, though the burial customs of the ancients, to which the 
conversation had strayed, might not be considered an exhilarat- 
ing topic. Jo quite glowed with triumph when Teddy got 
quenched in an argument, and thought to herself, as she watched 
her father's absorbed face, " How he would enjoy having such 
a man as my Professor to talk with every day ! " Lastly, Mr. 
Bhaer was dressed in a new suit of black, which made him look 
more like a gentleman than ever. His bushy hair had been 
cut and smoothly brushed, but did n't stay in order long, for, 
in exciting moments, he rumpled it up in the droll way he used 
to do ; and Jo liked it rampantly erect better than flat, because 
she thought it gave his fine forehead a Jove-like aspect. Poor 
Jo, how she did glorify that plain man, as she sat knitting away 
so quietly, yet letting nothing escape her, not even the fact that 
Mr. Bhaer actually had gold sleeve-buttons in his immaculate 
wrist-bands ! 

" Dear old fellow ! He could n't have got himself up with 
more care if he'd been going a-wooing," said Jo to herself; 
and then a sudden thought, born of the words, made her blush 
so dreadfully that she had to drop her ball, and go down after 
it to hide her face. 

The manoeuvre did not succeed as well as she expected, how- 
ever; for, though just in the act of setting fire to a funeral-pile, 
the Professor dropped his torch, metaphorically speaking, and 
made a dive after the little blue ball. Of course they bumped 
their heads smartly together, saw stars, and both came up flushed 



LITTLE WOMEN 483 

and laughing, without the ball, to resume their seats, wishing 
they had not left them. 

Nobody knew where the evening went to; for Hannah skil- 
fully abstracted the babies at an early hour, nodding like two 
rosy poppies, and Mr. Laurence went home to rest. The others 
sat round the fire, talking away, utterly regardless of the lapse 
of time, till Meg, whose maternal mind was impressed with a 
firm conviction that Daisy had tumbled out of bed, and Demi 
set his night-gown afire studying the structure of matches, made 
a move to go. 

" We must have our sing, in the good old way, for we are 
all together again once more/' said Jo, feeling that a good shout 
would be a safe and pleasant vent for the jubilant emotions of 
her soul. 

They were not all there. But no one found the words 
thoughtless or untrue; for Beth still seemed among them, a 
peaceful presence, invisible, but dearer than ever, since death 
could not break the household league that love made indissoluble. 
The little chair stood in its old place ; the tidy basket, with the 
bit of work she left unfinished when the needle grew "so 
heavy," was still on its accustomed shelf; the beloved instru- 
ment, seldom touched now, had not been moved; and above it 
Beth's face, serene and smiling, as in the early days, looked 
down upon them, seeming to say, " Be happy. I am here." 

" Play something, Amy. Let them hear how much you have 
improved," said Laurie, with pardonable pride in his promising 
pupil. 

But Amy whispered, with full eyes, as she twirled the faded 
stool, 

" Not to-night, dear. I can't show off to-night." 

But she did show something better than brilliancy or skill; 
for she sung Beth's songs with a tender music in her voice 
which the best master could not have taught, and touched the 
listeners' hearts with a sweeter power than any other inspira- 
tion could ha\-e given her, The room was very still, when the 



484 LITTLE WOMEN 

clear voice failed suddenly at the last line of Beth's favorite 
hymn. It was hard to say, 

" Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal ; " 

and Amy leaned against her husband, who stood behind her, 
feeling that her welcome home was not quite perfect without 
Beth's kiss. 

" Now, we must finish with Mignon's song ; for Mr. Bhaer 
sings that," said Jo, before the pause grew painful. And Mr. 
Bhaer cleared his throat with a gratified " Hem ! " as he stepped 
into the corner where Jo stood, saying, 

" You will sing with me ? We go excellently well to-gether." 
A pleasing fiction, by the way; for Jo had no more idea of 
music than a grasshopper. But she would have consented if 
he had proposed to sing a whole opera, and warbled away, 
blissfully regardless of time and tune. It did n't much matter ; 
for Mr. Bhaer sang like a true German, heartily and well ; and 
Jo soon subsided into a subdued hum, that she might listen to 
the mellow voice that seemed to sing for her alone. 

"Know'st thou the land where the citron blooms," 

used to be the Professor's favorite line, for " das land " meant 
Germany to him; but now he seemed to dwell, with peculiar 
warmth and melody, upon the words, 

" There, oh there, might I with thee, 
O my beloved, go ! " 

and one listener was so thrilled by the tender invitation that 
she longed to say she did know the land, and would joyfully 
depart thither whenever he liked. 

The song was considered a great success, and the singer re- 
tired covered with laurels. But a few minutes afterward, he 
forgot his manners entirely, and stared at Amy putting on her 
bonnet ; for she had been introduced simply as " my sister," 
and no one called her by her new name since he came. He for- 
got himself still further when Laurie said, in his most gracious 
manner, at parting; 



LITTLE WOMEN 485 

" My wife and 1 are very glad to meet you, sir. Please re- 
member that there is always a welcome waiting for you over 
the way." 

Then the Professor thanked him so heartily, and looked so 
suddenly illuminated with satisfaction, that Laurie thought him 
the most delightfully demonstrative old fellow he ever met. 

" I too shall go ; but I shall gladly come again, if you will gif 
me leave, dear madame, for a little business in the city will 
keep me here some days." 

He spoke to Mrs. March, but he looked at Jo; and the 
mother's voice gave as cordial an assent as did the daughter's 
eyes ; for Mrs. March was not so blind to her children's interest 
as Mrs. Moffat supposed. 

" I suspect that is a wise man," remarked Mr. March, with 
placid satisfaction, from the hearth-rug, after the last guest 
had gone. 

" I know he is a good one," added Mrs. March, with decided 
approval, as she wound up the clock. 

" I thought you 'd like him," was all Jo said, as she slipped 
away to her bed. 

She wondered what the business was that brought Mr. Bhaer 
to the city, and finally decided that he had been appointed to 
some great honor, somewhere, but had been too modest to men- 
tion the fact. If she had seen his face when, safe in his own 
room, he looked at the picture of a severe and rigid young lady, 
with a good deal of hair, who appeared to be gazing darkly 
into futurity, it might have thrown some light upon the subject, 
especially when he turned off the gas, and kissed the picture in 
the dark. 



CHAPTER XLIV. 

MY LORD AND LADY. 

" PLEASE, Madam Mother, could you lend me my wife for 
half an hour ? The luggage has come, and I 've been making 



486 LITTLE WOMEN 

hay of Amy's Paris finery, trying to find some things I want,* 
said Laurie, coming in the next day to find Mrs. Laurence sit- 
ting in her mother's lap, as if being made " the baby " again. 

" Certainly. Go dear ; I forget that you have any home but 
this/' said Mrs. March pressing the white hand that wore the 
wedding-ring, as if asking pardon for her maternal covetousness. 

" I should n't have come over if I could have helped it; but 
can't get on without my little woman any more than a " 

" Weathercock can without wind," suggested Jo, as he paused 
for a simile ; Jo had grown quite her own saucy self again since 
Teddy came home. 

" Exactly ; for Amy keeps me pointing due west most of the 
time, with only an occasional whiffle round to the south, and I 
have n't had an easterly spell since I was married ; don't know 
anything about the north, but am altogether salubrious and 
balmy, hey, my lady ? " 

" Lovely weather so far ; I don't know how long it will last, 
but I 'm not afraid of storms, for I 'm learning how to sail my 
ship. Come home, dear, and I '11 find your bootjack ; I suppose 
that 's what you are rummaging after among my things. Men 
are so helpless, mother," said Amy, with a matronly air, which 
delighted her husband. 

" What are you going to do with yourselves after you get 
settled ? " asked Jo, buttoning Amy's cloak as she used to button 
her pinafores. 

" We have our plans ; we don't mean to say much about them 
yet, because we are such very new brooms, but we don't intend 
to be idle. I 'm going into business with a devotion that shall 
delight grandfather, and prove to him that I 'm not spoilt. I 
need something of the sort to keep me steady. I 'm tired of 
dawdling, and mean to work like a man." 

" And Amy, what i? she going to do ? " asked Mrs. March, 
well pleased at Laurie's decision, and the energy with which 
he spoke. 

" After doing the civil all round, and airing our best bonnet:, 
we shall astonish you by the elegant hospitalities of our man- 



LITTLE WOMEN 487 

sion, the brilliant society we shall draw about us, and the 
beneficial influence we shall exert over the world at large. 
That 's about it, is n't it, Madame Recamier ? " asked Laurie, 
with a quizzical look at Amy. 

" Time will show. Come away, Impertinence, and don't shock 
my family by calling me names before their faces," answered 
Amy, resolving that there should be a home with a good wife 
in it before she set up a salon as a queen of society. 

" How happy those children seem together ! " observed Mr. 
March, finding it difficult to become absorbed in his Aristotle 
after the young couple had gone. 

" Yes, and I think it will last," added Mrs. March, with the 
restful expression of a pilot who has brought a ship safely into 
port. 

" I know it will. Happy Amy ; " and Jo sighed, then smiled 
brightly as Professor Bhaer opened the gate with an impatient 
push. 

Later in the evening, when his mind had been set at rest about 
the bootjack, Laurie said suddenly to his wife, who was flitting 
about, arranging her new art treasures, 

" Mrs. Laurence." 

"My lord!" 

" That man intends to marry our Jo ! " 

" I hope so ; don't you, dear ? " 

" Well, my love, I consider him a trump, in the fullest sense 
of that expressive word, but I do wish he was a little younger 
and a good deal richer." 

" Now, Laurie, don't be too fastidious and worldly-minded. 
If they love one another it does n't matter a particle how old 
they are nor how poor. Women never should marry for 
money " Amy caught herself up short as the words escaped 
her, and looked at her husband, who replied, with malicious 
gravity, 

" Certainly not, though you do hear charming girls say that 
they intend to do it sometimes. If my memory serves me, 
you once thought it your duty to make a rich match; that ac- 



4S8 



LITTLE WOMEN 



counts, perhaps, for your marrying a good-for-nothing like 
me." 

" O my dearest boy, don't, don't say that ! I forgot you were 
rich when I said ' Yes.' I 'd have married you if you hadn't a 
penny, and I sometimes wish you were poor that I might show 
how much I love you ; " and Amy, who was very dignified in 
public and very fond in private, gave convincing proofs of the 
truth of her words. 

" You don't really think I am such a mercenary creature as 
I tried to be once, do you? It would break my heart if you 
did n't believe that I 'd gladly pull in the same boat with you, 
even if you had to get your living by rowing on the lake." 

" Am I an idiot and a brute ? How could I think so, when 
you refused a richer man for me, and won't let me give you 
half I want to now, when I have the right? Girls do it every 
day, poor things, and are taught to think it is their only salva- 
tion; but you had better lessons, and, though I trembled for 
you at one time, I was not disappointed, for the daughter was 
true to the mother's teaching. I told mamma so yesterday, and 
she looked as glad and grateful as if I 'd given her a check for 
a million, to be spent in charity. You are not listening to my 
moral remarks, Mrs. Laurence; " and Laurie paused, for Amy's 
eyes had an absent look, though fixed upon his face. 

" Yes, I am, and admiring the dimple in your chin at the same 
time. I don't wish to make you vain, but I must confess that 
I 'm prouder of my handsome husband than of all his money. 
Don't laugh, but your nose is such a comfort to me ; " and Amy 
softly caressed the well-cut feature with artistic satisfaction. 

Laurie had received many compliments in his life, but never 
one that suited him better, as he plainly showed though he did 
laugh at his wife's peculiar taste, while she said slowly , 

" May I ask you a question, dear ? " 

"Of course you may." 

" Shall you care if Jo does marry Mr. Bhaer? " 

" Oh, that 's the trouble, is it ? I thought there was some- 
thing in the dimple that did n't suit you. Not being a dog in 



LITTLE WOMEN 489 

the manger, but the happiest fellow alive, I assure you I can 
dance at Jo's wedding with a heart as light as my heels. Do 
you doubt it, my darling ? " 

Amy looked up at him, and was satisfied ; her last little jealous 
fear vanished forever, and she thanked him, with a face full 
of love and confidence. 

" I wish we could do something for that capital old Professor. 
Could n't we invent a rich relation, who shall obligingly die 
out there in Germany, and leave him a tidy little fortune?" 
said Laurie, when they began to pace up and down the long 
drawing-room, arm-in-arm, as they were fond of doing, in 
memory of the chateau garden. 

" Jo would find us out, and spoil it all ; she is very proud of 
him, just as he is, and said yesterday that she thought poverty 
was a beautiful thing." 

" Bless her dear heart ! she won't think so when she has a 
literary husband, and a dozen little professors and professorins 
to support. We won't interfere now, but watch our chance, and 
do them a good turn in spite of themselves. I owe Jo for a part 
of my education, and she believes in people's paying their honest 
debts, so I '11 get round her in that way." 

" How delightful it is to be able to help others, is n't it ? That 
was always one of my dreams, to have the power of giving 
freely; and, thanks to you, the dream has come true." 

" Ah ! we '11 do quantities of good, won't we ? There 's one 
sort of poverty that I particularly like to help. Out-and-out 
beggars get taken care of, but poor gentlefolks fare badly, be- 
cause they won't ask, and people don't dare to offer charity; 
yet there are a thousand ways of helping them, if one only 
knows how to do it so delicately that it does not offend : I must 
say, I like to serve a decayed gentleman better than a blarney- 
ing beggar ; I suppose it 's wrong, but I do, though it is harder." 

" Because it takes a gentleman to do it," added the other 
member of the domestic admiration society. 

" Thank ynn, I 'm afraid I don't deserve that pretty compli- 
ment. But I was going to say that while I was dawdling about 



490 LITTLE WOMEN 

abroad, I saw a good many talented young fellows making all 
sorts of sacrifices, and enduring real hardships, that they might 
realize their dreams. Splendid fellows, some of them, working 
like heroes, poor and friendless, but so full of courage, patience, 
and ambition, that I was ashamed of myself, and longed to 
give them a right good lift. Those are people whom it's a 
satisfaction to help, for if they 've got genius, it 's an honor to 
be allowed to serve them, and not let it be lost or delayed for 
want of fuel to keep the pot boiling; if they haven't it's a 
pleasure to comfort the poor souls, and keep them from despair 
when they find it out." 

" Yes, indeed ; and there 's another class who can't ask, and 
who suffer in silence. I know something of it, for I belonged 
to it before you made a princess of me, as the king does the 
beggar-maid in the old story. Ambitious girls have a hard time, 
Laurie, and often have to see youth, health, and precious oppor- 
tunities go by, just for want of a little help at the right minute. 
People have been very kind to me; and whenever I see girls 
struggling along, as we used to do, I want to put out my hand 
and help them, as I was helped." 

" And so you shall, like an angel as you are ! " cried Laurie, 
resolving, with a glow of philanthropic zeal, to found and endow 
an institution for the express benefit of young women with 
artistic tendencies. " Rich people have no right to sit down and 
enjoy themselves, or let their money accumulate for others to 
waste. It 's not half so sensible to leave legacies when one dies 
as it is to use the money wisely while alive, and enjoy making 
one's fellow-creatures happy with it. We '11 have a good time 
ourselves, and add an extra relish to our own pleasure by giving 
other people a generous taste. Will you be a little Dorcas, 
going about emptying a big basket of comforts, and filling it 
up with good deeds ? " 

" With all my heart, if you will be a brave St. Martin, stop- 
ping, as you ride gallantly through the world, to share your cloak 
with the beggar." 

" It 's a bargain, and we shall get the best of it! " 



LITTLE WOMEN 491 

So the young pair shook hands upon it, and then paced 
happily on again, feeling that their pleasant home was more 
home-like because they hoped to brighten other homes, believing 
that their own feet would walk more uprightly along the flowery 
path before them, if they smoothed rough ways for other feet, 
and feeling that their hearts were more closely knit together 
by a love which could tenderly remember those less blest than 
they. 



CHAPTER XLV. 

DAISY AND DEMI. 

I CANNOT feel that I have done my duty as humble historian 
of the March family, without devoting at least one chapter to 
the two most precious and important members of it. Daisy and 
Demi had now arrived at years of discretion; for in this fast 
age babies of three or four assert their rights, and get them, too, 
which is more than many of their elders do. If there ever were 
a pair of twins in danger of being utterly spoilt by adoration, 
it was these prattling Brookes. Of course they were the most 
remarkable children ever born, as will be shown when I men- 
tion that they walked at eight months, talked fluently at twelve 
months, and at two years they took their places at table, and 
behaved with a propriety which charmed all beholders. At 
three, Daisy demanded a " needier," and actually made a bag 
with four stitches in it ; she likewise set up house-keeping in the 
sideboard, and managed a microscopic cooking-stove with a skill 
that brought tears of pride to Hannah's eyes, while Demi 
learned his letters with his grandfather, who invented a new 
mode of teaching the alphabet by forming the letters with his 
arms and legs, thus uniting gymnastics for head and heels. 
The boy early developed a mechanical genius which delighted 
his father and distracted his mother, for he tried to imitate 
every machine he saw, and kept the nursery in a chaotic condi- 
tion, with his " sewin-sheen," a mysterious structure of string, 



492 LITTLE WOMEN 

chairs, clothes-pins, and spools, for wheels to go " wound and 
wound ; " also a basket hung over the back of a big chair, in 
which he vainly tried to hoist his too confiding sister, who, with 
feminine devotion, allowed her little head to be bumped till 
rescued, when the young inventor indignantly remarked, " Why, 
marmar, dat's my lelly waiter, and me 's trying to pull her up." 

Though utterly unlike in character, the twins got on remark- 
ably well together, and seldom quarrelled more than thrice a 
day. Of course, Demi tyrannized over Daisy, and gallantly 
defended her from every other aggressor ; while Daisy made a 
galley-slave of herself, and adored her brother as the one 
perfect being in the world. A rosy, chubby, sunshiny little soul 
was Daisy, who found her way to everybody's heart, and nestled 
there. One of the captivating children, who seem made to be 
kissed and cuddled, adorned and adored like little goddesses, and 
produced for general approval on all festive occasions. Her 
small virtues were so sweet that she would have been quite 
angelic if a few small naughtinesses had not kept her delight- 
fully human. It was all fa*r weather in her world, and every 
morning she scrambled up to the window in her little night- 
gown to look out, and say, no matter whether it rained or shone, 
" Oh, pitty day, oh, pitty day ! " Every one was a friend, and 
she offered kisses to a stranger so confidingly that the most 
inveterate bachelor relented, and baby-lovers became faithful 
worshippers. 

" Me loves evvybody," she once said, opening her arms, with 
her spoon in one hand, and her mug in the other, as if eager 
to embrace and nourish the whole world. 

As she grew, her mother began to feel that the Dovecote 
would be blest by the presence of an inmate as serene and 
loving as that which had helped to make the old house home, and 
to pray that she might be spared a loss like that which had 
lately taught them how long they had entertained an angel 
unawares. Her grandfather often called her " Beth," and her 
grandmother watched over her with untiring devotion, as if 



LITTLE WOMEN 493 

trying to atone for some past mistake, which no eye but her 
own could see. 

Demi, like a true Yankee, was of an inquiring turn, wanting 
to know everything, and often getting much disturbed because 
he could not get satisfactory answers to his perpetual " What 
for?" 

He also possessed a philosophic bent, to the great delight of 
his grandfather, who used to hold Socratic conversations with 
him, in which the precocious pupil occasionally posed as his 
teacher, to the undisguised satisfaction of the womenfolk. 

" What makes my legs go, dranpa ? " asked the young 
philosopher, surveying those active portions of his frame with a 
meditative air, while resting after a go-to-bed frolic one night. 

" It 's your little mind, Demi/' replied the sage, stroking the 
yellow head respectfully. 

"What is a little mine?" 

" It is something which makes your body move, as the spring 
made the wheels go in my watch when I showed it to you." 

" Open me ; I want to see it go wound." 

" I can't do that any more than you could open the watch. 
God winds you up, and you go till He stops you." 

" Does I ? " and Demi's brown eyes grew big and bright as he 
took in the new thought. " Is I wounded up like the watch ? " 

" Yes ; but I can't show you how ; for it is done when we 
don't see." 

Demi felt of his back, as if expecting to find it like that of 
the watch, and then gravely remarked, 

" I dess Dod does it when I *s asleep." 

A careful explanation followed, to which he listened so 
attentively that his anxious grandmother said, 

" My dear, do you think it wise to talk about such things to 
that baby ? He 's getting great bumps over his eyes, and 
[earning to ask the most unanswerable questions." 

" If he is old enough to ask the questions he is old enough 
to receive true answers. I am not putting the thoughts into his 
head, but helping him unfold those already there. These 



494 LITTLE WOMEN 

children are wiser than we are, and I have no doubt the bey 
understands every word I have said to him. Now, Deini, tell 
me where you keep your mind." 

If the boy had replied, like Alcibiades, "By vhe gods, 
Socrates, I cannot tell," his grandfather would not have been 
surprised; but when, after standing a moment on one leg, like a 
meditative young stork, he answered, in a tone of calm con- 
viction, " In my little belly/' the old gentleman could only join 
in grandma's laugh, and dismiss the class in metaphysics. 

There might have been cause for maternal anxiety, if Demi 
had not given convincing proofs that he was a true boy, as well 
as a budding philosopher; for, often, after a discussion which 
caused Hannah to prophesy, with ominous nods, " That child 
ain't long for this world," he would turn about and set her 
fears at rest by some of the pranks with which dear, dirty, 
naughty little rascals distract and delight their parents' souls. 

Meg made many moral rules, and tried to keep them; but 
what mother was ever proof against the winning wires, the 
ingenious evasions, or the tranquil audacity of the miniature 
tnen and women who so early show themselves accomplished 
Artful Dodgers? 

" No more raisins, Demi, they '11 make you sick," says mamma 
to the young person, who offers his services in the kitchen with 
unfailing regularity on plum-pudding day. 

" Me likes to be sick." 

" I don't want to have you, so run away and help Daisy make 
patty-cakes." 

He reluctantly departs, but his wrongs weigh upon his spirit ; 
and, by and by, when an opportunity comes to redress them, 
he outwits mamma by a shrewd bargain. 

" Now you have been good children, and I '11 play anything 
you like," says Meg, as she leads her assistant cooks upstairs, 
when the pudding is safely bouncing in the pot. 

" Truly marmar ? " asks Demi, with a brilliant idea in his 
u ell-powdered head. 

"Yes, truly; anything you say," replies the short-sighted 



LITTLE WOMEN 495 

parent, preparing herself to sing " The Three Little Kittens " 
half a dozen times over, or to take her family to " Buy a penny 
bun," regardless of wind or limb. But Demi corners her by 
the cool reply, 

" Then we '11 go and eat up all the raisins." 

Aunt Dodo was chief playmate and confidante of both 
children, and the trio turned the little house topsy-turvy. Aunt 
Amy was as yet only a name to them, Aunt Beth soon faded 
into a pleasantly vague memory, but Aunt Dodo was a living 
reality, and they made the most of her, for which compliment 
she was deeply grateful. But when Mr. Bhaer came, Jo 
neglected her playfellows, and dismay and desolation fell upon 
their little souls. Daisy, who was fond of going about peddling 
kisses, lost her best customer and became bankrupt; Demi, 
with infantile penetration, soon discovered that Dodo liked to 
play with " the bear-man " better than she did with him ; but, 
though hurt, he concealed his anguish, for he had n't the heart 
to insult a rival who kept a mine of chocolate-drops in his 
waistcoat-pocket, and a watch that could be taken out of its 
case and freely shaken by ardent admirers. 

Some persons might have considered these pleasing liberties 
as bribes ; but Demi did n't see it in that light, and continued 
to patronize the " bear-man " with pensive affability, while 
Daisy bestowed her small affections upon him at the third call, 
and considered his shoulder her throne, his arm her refuge, 
his gifts treasures of surpassing worth. 

Gentlemen are sometimes seized with sudden fits of admira- 
tion for the young relatives of ladies whom they honor with 
their regard; but this counterfeit philoprogenitiveness sits 
uneasily upon them, and does not deceive anybody a particle. 
Mr. Bhaer's devotion was sincere, however likewise effective, 
for honesty is the best policy in love as in law ; he was one of 
me men who are at home with children, and looked particularly 
well when little faces made a pleasant contrast with his manly 
one. His business, whatever it was, detained him from day 
to day, but evening seldom failed to bring him out to see 



496 LITTLE WOMEN 

well, he always asked for Mr. March, so I suppose he was the 
attraction. The excellent papa labored under the delusion 
that he was, and revelled in long discussions with the kindred 
spirit, till a chance remark of his more observing grandson 
suddenly enlightened him. 

Mr. Bhaer came in one evening to pause on the threshold of 
the study, astonished by the spectacle that met his eye. Prone 
upon the floor lay Mr. March, with his respectable legs in the 
air, and beside him, likewise prone, was Demi, trying to imitate 
the attitude with his own short, scarlet-stockinged legs, both 
grovellers so seriously absorbed that they were unconscious 
of spectators, till Mr. Bhaer laughed his sonorous laugh, and 
Jo cried out, with a scandalized face, 

" Father, father, here's the Professor!" 

Down went the black legs and up came the gray head, as the 
preceptor said, with undisturbed dignity, 

" Good evening, Mr. Bhaer. Excuse me for a moment ; we 
are just finishing our lesson. Now, Demi, make the letter and 
tell its name." 

" I knows him ! " and, after a few convulsive efforts, the red 
legs took the shape of a pair of compasses, and the intelligent 
pupil triumphantly shouted, " It 's a We, dranpa, it 's a We ! " 

" He 's a born Weller," laughed Jo, as her parent gathered 
himself up, and her nephew tried to stand on his head, as the 
only mode of expressing his satisfaction that school was over. 

" What have you been at to-day, bubchen ? " asked Mr. Bhaer, 
picking up the gymnast. 

" Me went to see little Mary." 

" And what did you do there ? " 

" I kissed her," began Demi, with artless frankness. 

" Prut ! thou beginnest early. What did the little Mary say 
to that ? " asked Mr. Bhaer, continuing to confess the young 
sinner, who stood upon his knee, exploring the waistcoat-pocket. 

" Oh, she liked it, and she kissed me, and I liked it. Don't 
little boys like little girls ? " added Demi, with his mouth 
and an air of bland satisfaction. 



LITTLE WOMEN 497 

"You precocious chick! Who put that into your head?" 
said Jo, enjoying the innocent revelations as much as the 
Professor. 

" 'T is n't in mine head ; it 's in mine mouf ," answered literal 
Demi, putting out his tongue, with a chocolate-drop on it, 
thinking she alluded to confectionery, not ideas. 

" Thou shouldst save some for the little friend : sweets to 
the sweets, mannling ; " and Mr. Bhaer offered Jo some, with a 
look that made her wonder if chocolate was not the nectar drunk 
by the gods. Demi also saw the smile, was impressed by it, 
and artlessly inquired, 

" Do great boys like great girls, too, 'Fessor ? " 

Like young Washington, Mr. Bhaer " could n't tell a lie ; " 
so he gave the somewhat vague reply that he believed they did 
sometimes, in a tone that made Mr. March put down his clothes- 
brush, glance at Jo's retiring face, and then sink into his chair, 
looking as if the " precocious chick " had put an idea into his 
head that was both sweet and sour. 

Why Dodo, when she caught him in the china-closet half an 
hour afterward, nearly squeezed the breath out of his little 
body with a tender embrace, instead of shaking him for being 
there, and why she followed up this novel performance by the 
unexpected gift of a big slice of bread and jelly, remained one 
of the problems over which Demi puzzled his small wits, and 
was forced to leave unsolved forever. 



CHAPTER XLVI. 

UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 

WHILE Laurie and Amy were taking conjugal strolls over 
velvet carpets, as they set their house in order, and planned a 
blissful future, Mr. Bhaer and Jo were enjoying promenades 
of a different sort, along muddy roads and sodden fields. 

" I always do take a walk toward evening, and I don't know 



4 g8 LITTLE WOMEN 

why I should give it up, just because I often happen to meet 
the Professor on his way out," said Jo to herself, after two 
or three encounters ; for, though there were two paths to Meg's, 
whichever one she took she was sure to meet him, either going 
or returning. He was always walking rapidly, and never seemed 
to see her till quite close, when he would look as if his short- 
sighted eyes had failed to recognize the approaching lady till 
that moment. Then, if she was going to Meg's, he always had 
something for the babies; if her face was turned homeward, 
he had merely strolled down to see the river, and was just about 
returning, unless they were tired of his frequent calls. 

Under the circumstances, what could Jo do but greet him 
civilly, and invite him in? If she was tired of his visits, she 
concealed her weariness with perfect skill, and took care that 
there should be coffee for supper, " as Friedrich I mean 
Mr. Bhaer does n't like tea." 

By the second week, every one knew perfectly well what was 
going on, yet every one tried to look as if they were stone-blind 
to the changes in Jo's face. They never asked why she sang 
about her work, did up her hair three times a day, and got so 
blooming with her evening exercise; and no one seemed to 
have the slightest suspicion that Professor Bhaer, while talking 
philosophy with the father, was giving the daughter lessons 
in love. 

Jo couldn't even lose her heart in a decorous manner, but 
sternly tried to quench her feelings ; and, failing to do so, led 
a somewhat agitated life. She was mortally afraid of being 
laughed at for surrendering, after her many and vehement 
declarations of independence. Laurie was her especial dread; 
but, thanks to the new manager, he behaved with praiseworthy 
propriety, never called Mr. Bhaer " a capital old fellow " in 
public, never alluded, in the remotest manner, to Jo's improved 
appearance, or expressed the least surprise at seeing the 
Professor's hat on the Marches' hall-table nearly every evening. 
But he exulted in private and longed for the time to come 



LITTLE WOMEN 499 

when he could give Jo a piece of plate, with a bear and a 
ragged staff on it as an appropriate coat-of-arms. 

For a fortnight, the Professor came and went with lover-like 
regularity ; then he stayed away for three whole days, and made 
no sign, a proceeding which caused everybody to look sober, 
and Jo to become pensive, at first, and then alas for romance ! 
very cross. 

" Disgusted, I dare say, and gone home as suddenly as he 
came. It 's nothing to me, of course ; but I should think he 
would have come and bid us good-by, like a gentleman," she 
said to herself, with a despairing look at the gate, as she put on 
her things for the customary walk, one dull afternoon. 

" You 'd better take the little umbrella, dear ; it looks like 
rain," said her mother, observing that she had on her new 
bonnet, but not alluding to the fact. 

" Yes, Marmee ; do you want anything in town ? I Ve got 
to run in and get some paper," returned Jo, pulling out the bow 
under her chin before the glass as an excuse for not looking 
at her mother. 

" Yes ; I want some twilled silesia, a paper of number nine 
needles, and two yards of narrow lavender ribbon. Have you 
got your thick boots on, and something warm under your 
cloak?" 

" I believe so," answered Jo absently. 

"If you happen to meet Mr. Bhaer, bring him home to tea. 
1 quite long to see the dear man," added Mrs. March. 

Jo heard that, but made no answer, except to kiss her mother, 
and walk rapidly away, thinking with a glow of gratitude, in 
spite of her heartache, 

" How good she is to me ; What do girls do who have n't 
any mothers to help them through their troubles ? " 

The dry-goods stores were not down among the counting- 
houses, banks, and wholesale warerooms, where gentlemen most 
do congregate; but Jo found herself in that part of the city 
before she did a single errand, loitering along as if waiting 
for some one, examining engineering instruments in one window 



5oo LITTLE WOMEN 

and samples of wool in another, with most unf eminine interest ; 
tumbling over barrels, being half -smothered by descending bales, 
and hustled unceremoniously by busy men who looked as if 
they wondered " how the deuce she got there." A drop of rain 
on her cheek recalled her thoughts from baffled hopes to ruined 
ribbons; for the drops continued to fall, and, being a woman 
as well as a lover, she felt that, though it was too late to save 
her heart, she might her bonnet. Now she remembered the 
little umbrella, which she had forgotten to take in her hurry 
to be off ; but regret was unavailing, and nothing could be done 
but borrow one or submit to a drenching. She looked up at 
the lowering sky, down at the crimson bow already flecked 
with black, forward along the muddy street, then one long, 
lingering look behind, at a certain grimy warehouse, with 
" Hoffmann, Swartz, & Co." over the door, and said to herself, 
with a sternly reproachful air, 

" It serves me right ! What business had I to put on all my 
best things and come philandering down here, hoping to see the 
Professor? Jo, I'm ashamed of you! No, you shall not go 
there to borrow an umbrella, or find out where he is, from his 
friends. You shall trudge away, and do your errands in the 
rain ; and if you catch your death and ruin your bonnet, it 's 
no more than you deserve. Now then ! " 

With that she rushed across the street so impetuously that 
she narrowly escaped annihilation from a passing truck, and 
precipitated herself into the arms of a stately old gentleman, 
who said, " I beg pardon, ma'am," and looked mortally offended. 
Somewhat daunted, Jo righted herself, spread her handkerchief 
over the devoted ribbons, and, putting temptation behind her, 
hurried on, with increasing dampness about the ankles, and 
much clashing of umbrellas overhead. The fact that a somewhat 
dilapidated blue one remained stationary above the unprotected 
bonnet, attracted her attention; and, looking up, she saw Mr. 
Bhaer looking down. 

" I feel to know the strong-minded lady who goes so bravely 



LITTLE WOMEN 501 

nnder many horse-noses, and so fast through much mud. What 
do you down here, my friend ? " 

" I 'm shopping." 

Mr. Bhaer smiled, as he glanced from the pickle- factory on 
one side, to the wholesale hide and leather concern on the 
other; but he only said politely, 

" You haf no umbrella. May I go also, and take for you 
the bundles?" 

" Yes, thank you." 

Jo's cheeks were as red as her ribbon, and she wondered what 
he thought of her ; but she did n't care, for in a minute she 
found herself walking away arm-in-arm with her Professor, 
feeling as if the sun had suddenly burst out with uncommon 
brilliancy, that the world was all right again, and that one 
thoroughly happy woman was paddling through the wet that day. 

" We thought you had gone," said Jo, hastily, for she knew 
he was looking at her. Her bonnet was n't big enough to hide 
her face, and she feared he might think the joy it betrayed 
unmaidenly. 

" Did you believe that I should go with no farewell to those 
who haf been so heavenly kind to me ? " he asked so reproach- 
fully that she felt as if she had insulted him by the suggestion, 
and answered heartily, 

" No, / did n't ; I knew you were busy about your own affairs, 
but we rather missed you, father and mother especially." 

"And you?" 

" I 'm always glad to see you, sir." 

In her anxiety to keep her voice quite calm, Jo made it rather 
cool, and the frosty little monosyllable at the end seemed to 
chill the Professor, for his smile vanished, as he said gravely, 

" I thank you, and come one time more before I go." 

" You are going, then ? " 

" I haf no longer any business here; it is done." 

"Successfully, I hope?" said Jo, for the bitterness ol 
disappointment was in that short reply of his. 



502 LITTLE WOMEN 

" I ought to think so, for I haf a way opened to me by which 
I can make my bread and gif my Jiinglings much help." 

" Tell me, please ! I like to know all about the the boys, 5 ' 
said Jo eagerly. 

" That is so kind, I gladly tell you. My friends find for me 
a place in a college, where I teach as at home, and earn enough 
to make the way smooth for Franz and Emil. For this I should 
be grateful, should I not ? " 

" Indeed you should. How splendid it will be to have you 
doing what you like, and be able to see you often, and the 
boys ! " cried Jo, clinging to the lads as an excuse for the 
satisfaction she could not help betraying. 

"Ah! but we shall not meet often, I fear; this place is at 
the West." 

" So far away ! " and Jo left her skirts to their fate, as if it 
did n't matter now what became of her clothes or herself. 

Mr. Bhaer could read several languages, but he had not 
learned to read women yet. He flattered himself that he knew 
Jo pretty well, and was, therefore, much amazed by the 
contradictions of voice, face, and manner, which she showed 
him in rapid succession that day, for she was in half a dozen 
different moods in the course of half an hour. When she met 
him she looked surprised, though it was impossible to help 
suspecting that she had come for that express purpose. When 
he offered her his arm, she took it with a look that filled him 
with delight; but when he asked if she missed him, she gave 
such a chilly, formal reply that despair fell upon him. On 
learning his good fortune she almost clapped her hands: was 
the joy all for the boys? Then, on hearing his destination, she 
said, " So far away ! " in a tone of despair that lifted him on 
to a pinnacle of hope; but the next minute she tumbled him 
down again by observing, like one entirely absorbed in the 
matter, 

" Here 's the place for my errands ; will you come in ? It 
won't take long." 

Jo rather prided herself upon her shopping capabilities, and 



LITTLE WOMEN 503 

particularly wished to impress her escort with the neatness and 
despatch with which she would accomplish the business. But, 
owing to the flutter she was in, everything went amiss; she 
upset the tray of needles, forgot the silesia was to be " twilled " 
till it was cut off, gave the wrong change, and covered herself 
with confusion by asking for lavender ribbon at the calico 
counter. Mr. Bhaer stood by, watching her blush and blunder; 
and, as he watched her, his own bewilderment seemed to subside, 
for he was beginning to see that on some occasions women, 
like dreams, go by contraries. 

When they came out, he put the parcel under his arm with a 
more cheerful aspect, and splashed through the puddles as if he 
rather enjoyed it, on the whole. 

" Should we not do a little what you call shopping for the 
babies, and haf a farewell feast to-night if I go for my last 
call at your so pleasant home ? " he asked, stopping before a 
window full of fruit and flowers. 

" What will we buy ? " said Jo, ignoring the latter part of 
his speech, and sniffing the mingled odors with an affectation 
of delight as they went in. 

" May they haf oranges and figs ? " asked Mr. Bhaer, with 
a paternal air. 

" They eat them when they can get them." 

" Do you care for nuts ? " 

" Like a squirrel." 

" Hamburg grapes ; yes, we shall surely drink to the 
Fatherland in those ? " 

Jo frowned upon that piece of extravagance, and asked why 
he did n't buy a frail of dates, a cask of raisins, and a bag of 
almonds, and done with it? Whereat Mr. Bhaer confiscated 
her purse, produced his own, and finished the marketing by 
buying several pounds of grapes, a pot of rosy daisies, and a 
pretty jar of honey, to be regarded in the light of a demijohn. 
Then, distorting his pockets with the knobby bundles, and 
giving her the flowers to hold, he put up the old umbrella, 
and they travelled on again. 



504 LITTLE WOMEN 

" Miss Marsch, I haf a great favor to ask of you." began the 
Professor, after a moist promenade of half a Diode. 

" Yes, sir ; " and Jo's heart began to beat so hard she was 
afraid he would hear it. 

" I am bold to say it in spite of the rain, because so short 
a time remains to me." 

" Yes, sir ; " and Jo nearly crushed the small flower-pot with 
the sudden squeeze she gave it. 

" I wish to get a little dress for my Tina, and I am too stupid 
to go alone. Will you kindly gif me a word of taste and help? " 

" Yes, sir; " and Jo felt as calm and cool, all of a sudden, as 
if she had stepped into a refrigerator. 

" Perhaps also a shawl for Tina's mother, she is so poor and 
sick, and the husband is such a care. Yes, yes, a thick, warm 
shawl would be a friendly thing to take the little mother." 

" I '11 do it with pleasure, Mr. Bhaer. I 'm going very fast 
and he 's getting dearer every minute," added Jo to herself ; 
then, with a mental shake, she entered into the business with 
an energy which was pleasant to behold. 

Mr. Bhaer left it all to her, so she chose a pretty gown for 
Tina, and then ordered out the shawls. The clerk, being a 
married man, condescended to take an interest in the couple, 
who appeared to be shopping for their family. 

" Your lady may prefer this ; it 's a superior article, a most 
desirable color, quite chaste and genteel," he said, shaking out 
a comfortable gray shawl, and throwing it over Jo's shoulders. 

" Does this suit you, Mr. Bhaer ? " she asked, turning her 
back to him, and feeling deeply grateful for the chance of 
hiding her face. 

" Excellently well ; we will haf it," answered the Professor, 
smiling to himself as he paid for it, while Jo continued to 
rummage the counters like a confirmed bargain-hunter. 

" Now shall we go home ? " he asked, as if the words were 
very pleasant to him. 

" Yes ; it 's late, and I 'm so tired." Jo's voice was more 
pathetic than she knew; for now the sun seemed to have gone 



LITTLE WOMEN 505 

hi as suddenly as it came out, the world grew muddy and 
miserable again, and for the first time she discovered that her 
feet were cold, her head ached, and that her heart was colder 
than the former, fuller of pain than the latter. Mr. Bhaer was 
going away; he only cared for her as a friend; it was all a 
mistake, and the sooner it was over the better. With this idea 
in her head, she hailed an approaching omnibus with such a 
hasty gesture that the daisies flew out of the pot and were 
badly damaged. 

" This is rot our omniboos," said the Professor, waving the 
loaded vehicle away, and stopping to pick up the poor little 
flowers. 

" I beg your pardon, I did n't see the name distinctly. Never 
mind, I can walk. I 'm used to plodding in the mud," returned 
Jo, winking hard, because she would have died rather than 
openly wipe her eyes. 

Mr. Bhaer saw the drops on her cheeks, though she turned 
her head away ; the sight seemed to touch him very much, for, 
suddenly stooping down, he asked in a tone that meant a great 
deal, 

" Heart's dearest, why do you cry ? " 

Now, if Jo had not been new to this sort of thing she would 
have said she was n't crying, had a cold in her head, or told 
any other feminine fib proper to the occasion ; instead of which 
that undignified creature answered, with an irrepressible sob, 

" Because you are going away." 

" Ach, mein Gott, that is so good ! " cried Mr. Bhaer, 
managing to clasp his hands in spite of the umbrella and the 
bundles. " Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you ; I came 
to see if you could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was 
something more than a friend. Am I ? Can you make a little 
place in your heart for old Fritz ? " he added, all in one breath. 

" Oh, yes ! " said Jo ; and he was quite satisfied, for she folded 
both hands over his arm, and looked up at him with an expres- 
sion thai plainly showed how happy she would be to walk 



506 LITTLE WOMEN 

through life beside him, even though she had no better shelter 
than the old umbrella, if he carried it. 

It was certainly proposing under difficulties, for, even if he 
had desired to do so, Mr. Bhaer could not go down upon his 
knees, on account of the mud; neither could he offer Jo his 
hand, except figuratively, for both were full; much less could 
he indulge in tender demonstrations in the open street, though 
he was near it; so the only way in which he could express his 
rapture was to look at her, with an expression which glorified 
his face to such a degree that there actually seemed to be little 
rainbows in the drops that sparkled on his beard. If he had 
not loved Jo very much, I don't think he could have done it 
then, for she looked far from lovely, with her skirts in a 
deplorable state, her rubber boots splashed to the ankle, and 
her bonnet a ruin. Fortunately, Mr. Bhaer considered her the 
most beautiful woman living, and she found him more " Jove- 
like " than ever, though his hat-brim was quite limp with the 
little rills trickling thence upon his shoulders (for he held 
the umbrella all over Jo), and every finger of his gloves needed 
mending. 

Passers-by probably thought them a pair of harmless lunatics, 
for they entirely forgot to hail a 'bus, and strolled leisurely 
along, oblivious of deepening dusk and fog. Little they cared 
what anybody thought, for they were enjoying the happy hour 
that seldom comes but once in any life, the magical moment 
which bestows youth on the old, beauty on the plain, wealth 
on the poor, and gives human hearts a foretaste of heaven. 
The Professor looked as if he had conquered a kingdom, and 
the world had nothing more to offer him in the way of bliss; 
while Jo trudged beside him, feeling as if her place had always 
been there, and wondering how she ever could have chosen 
any other lot. Of course, she was the first to speak intel- 
ligibly, I mean, for the emotional remarks which fallowed her 
impetuous " Oh, yes ! " were not of a coherent ox reportablf 
character. 

" Friedrich, why did n't you " 



Passers-by probably thought them a pair of 
harmless lunatics. Page 506. 



OTTLE WOMEN 507 

" Ah, heaven, she gifs me the name that no one speaks since 
Minna died ! " cried the Professor, pausing in a puddle to 
regard her with grateful delight. 

" I always call you so to myself I forgot ; but I won't, 
unless you like it." 

" Like it ? it is more sweet to me than I can tell. Say * thou/ 
also, and I shall say your language is almost as beautiful as 
mine." 

" Is n't ' thou ' a little sentimental ? " asked Jo, privately 
thinking it a lovely monosyllable. 

" Sentimental ? Yes. Thank Gott, we Germans believe in 
sentiment, and keep ourselves young mit it. Your English 
' you ' is so cold, say ' thou/ heart's dearest, it means so much 
to me," pleaded Mr. Bhaer, more like a romantic student than 
a grave professor. 

" Well, then, why did n't thou tell me all this sooner ? " asked 
Jo bashfully. 

" Now I shall haf to show thee all my heart, and I so gladly 
will, because thou must take care of it hereafter. See, then, 
my Jo, ah, the dear, funny little name ! I had a wish to 
tell you something the day I said good-by, in New York; but 
I thought the handsome friend was betrothed to thee, and so 
I spoke not. Wouldst thou have said ' Yes/ then, if I had 
spoken ? " 

" I don't know ; I 'm afraid not, for I did n't have any heart 
just then." 

" Prut ! that I do not believe. It was asleep till the fairy 
prince came through the wood, and waked it up. Ah, well, 
' Die erste Liebe ist die beste ; ' but that I should not expect." 

" Yes, the first love is the best ; so be contented, for I never 
had another. Teddy was only a boy, and soon got over his 
little fancy," said Jo, anxious to correct the Professor's mistake. 

" Good I then I shall rest happy, and be sure that thou givest 
me all. I haf waited so long, I am grown selfish, as thou wilt 
find, Professorin/' 

" I like that/' cried Jo, delighted with her new name. " Now 



508 LITTLE WOMEN 

tell me what brought you, at last, just when I most wanted 
you?" 

" This ; " and Mr. Bhaer took a little worn paper out of his 
waistcoat-pocket. 

Jo unfolded it, and looked much abashed, for It was one of 
her own contributions to a paper that paid for poetry, which 
accounted for her sending it an occasional attempt. 

" How could that bring you ? " she asked, wondering what 
he meant. 

" I found it by chance ; I knew it by the names and the initials, 
and in it there was one little verse that seemed to call me. Read 
and find him ; I will see that you go not in the wet." 

Jo obeyed, and hastily skimmed through the lines which she 
had christened 

" IN THE GARRET 

"Four little chests all in a row, 

Dim with dust, and worn by time, 
All fashioned and filled, long ago, 

By children now in their prime. 
Four little keys hung side by side, 

With faded ribbons, brave and gay 
When fastened there, with childish pride. 

Long ago, on a rainy day. 
Four little names, one on each lid, 

Carved out by a boyish hand, 
And underneath there lieth hid 

Histories of a happy band 
Once playing here, and pausing oft 

To hear the sweet refrain, 
That came and went on the roof aloft, 

In the falling summer rain. 

M ' Meg ' on the first lid, smooth and fair. 

I look in with loving eyes, 
For folded here, with well-known care, 
A goodly gathering lies, 



LITTLE WOMEN 503 

The record of a peaceful life, 

Gifts to gentle child and girl, 
A bridal gown, lines to a wife, 

A tiny shoe, a baby curl. 
No toys in this first chest remain, 

For all are carried away, 
In their old age, to join again 

In another small Meg's play. 
Ah, happy mother ! well I know 

You hear, like a sweet refrain, 
Lullabies ever soft and low 

In the falling summer rain. 

~ l f Jo' on the next lid, scratched and worn, 

And within a motley store 
Of headless dolls, of school-books torn, 

Birds and beasts that speak no more; 
Spoils brought home from the fairy ground 

Only trod by youthful feet, 
Dreams of a future never found, 

Memories of a past still sweet; 
Half-writ poems, stories wild, 

April letters, warm and cold, 
Diaries of a wilful child, 

Hints of a woman early old; 
A woman in a lonely home, 

Hearing, like a sad refrain, 
Be worthy love, and love will come/ 

In the falling summer rain. 

"My Beth! the dust is always swept 

From the lid that bears your name, 
As if by loving eyes that wept, 

By careful hands that often came. 
Death canonized for us one saint, 

Ever less human than divine, 
And still we lay, with tender plaint, 

Relics in this household shrine, 
The silver bell, so seldom rung, 

The little cap which last she wore, 



$10 LITTLE WOMEN 

The fair, dead Catherine that hung 

By angels borne above her door; 
The songs she sang, without lament, 

In her prison-house of pain, 
Forever are they sweetly blent 

With the falling summer rain. 

"Upon the last lid's polished field 

Legend now both fair and true 
A gallant knight bears on his shield, 

'Amy,' in letters gold and blue. 
Within lie snoods that bound her hair, 

Slippers that have danced their last, 
Faded flowers laid by with care, 

Fans whose airy toils are past; 
Gay valentines, all ardent flames, 

Trifles that have borne their part 
In girlish hopes and fears and shameS- 

The record of a maiden heart 
Now learning fairer, truer spells, 

Hearing, like a blithe refrain, 
The silver sound of bridal bells 

In falling summer rain. 

*' Four little chests all in a row, 

Dim with dust, and worn by time, 
Four women, taught by weal and woe 

To love and labor in their prime. 
Four sisters, parted for an hour, 

None lost, one only gone before, 
Made by love's immortal power, 

Nearest and dearest evermore. 
Oh, when these hidden stores of ours 

Lie open to the Father's sight, 
May they be rich in golden hours, 

Deeds that show fairer for the light, 
Lives whose brave music long shall ring; 

Like a spirit-stirring strain, 
Souls that shall gladly soar and sing 

In the long sunshine after rain. 

' J. M." 



LITTLE WOMEN 511 

" It 's very bad poetry, but I felt it when I wrote it, one day 
when I was very lonely, and had a good cry on a rag-bag, 
I never thought it would go where it could tell tales," said Jo, 
tearing up the verses the Professor had treasured so long. 

" Let it go, it has done its duty, and I will haf a fresh one 
when I read all the brown book in which she keeps her little 
secrets," said Mr. Bhaer, with a smile, as he watched the 
fragments fly away on the wind. " Yes," he added earnestly, 
" I read that, and I think to myself, She has a sorrow, she is 
lonely, she would find comfort in true love. I haf a heart full, 
full for her ; shall I not go and say, ' If this is not too poor a 
thing to gif for what I shall hope to receive, take it in Gott 's 
name?*" 

" And so you came to find that it was not too poor, but the 
one precious thing I needed," whispered Jo. 

" I had no courage to think that at first, heavenly kind as 
was your welcome to me. But soon I began to hope, and then I 
said, ' I will haf her if I die for it/ and so I will ! " cried Mr. 
Bhaer, with a defiant nod, as if the walls of mist closing round 
them were barriers which he was to surmount or valiantly 
knock down. 

Jo thought that was splendid, and resolved to be worthy of 
her knight, though he did not come prancing on a charger in 
gorgeous array. 

" What made you stay away so long ? " she asked presently, 
finding it so pleasant to ask confidential questions and get 
delightful answers that she could not keep silent. 

" It was not easy, but I could not find the heart to take you 
from that so happy home until I could haf a prospect of one 
to give you, after much time, perhaps, and hard work. How 
could I ask you to gif up so much for a poor old fellow, who 
has no fortune but a little learning? " 

" I 'm glad you are poor ; I could n't bear a rich husband," 
said Jo decidedly, adding, in a softer tone, " Don't fear poverty; 
I 've known it long enough to lose my dread and be happy 
working for those I love ; and don't call yourself old, forty 



5 i2 LITTLE WOMEN 

is the prime of lite. I could n't help loving you if you were 
seventy J " 

The Professor found that so touching that he would have 
been glad of his handkerchief, if he could have got at it ; as he 
could n't, Jo wiped his eyes for him, and said, laughing, as she 
took away a bundle or two, 

" I may be strong-minded, but no one can say I 'm out of my 
sphere now, for woman's special mission is supposed to be 
drying tears and bearing burdens. I 'm to carry my share, 
Friedrich, and help to earn the home. Make up your mind to 
that, or I '11 never go," she added resol